Is it that it is only my generation, but how is it that black and white films work? The other night I watched "Schindler's List" as part of my screen writing work - looking at the pages and pacing of the screen play, clock time, page count, and images. Soon I forgot it was black and white.
I caught a bit of "Kill Bill Vol 2" which opens with a long black and white sequence.
Oliver Stone bouncing back and forth with black and white, sometimes annoying, sometimes making a statement, but I have set to figure out his "code" but even then the back and white detracts and and only by accident adds.
And then there was "Casablanca" that a friend insisted I watch and it was not hard for me to watch it and though I liked the black and white, the colorized version did not bother me and reminded me of Indiana Jones.
What if "Final Fantasy" or "Sky Captain" were done in black and white, especially "Sky Captain" that tried to go back to that era. Somehow I don't think the technology is there. Why?
The clean, crisp, lines of the black and white and high contrast as it is shot today. It may be old prints, but Casablanca did not "pop" like with "Schneider's List" or "Kill Bill vol. 2."
Woody Allen tried it with "Manhattan," but at least for me, it don't work.
I think "Schindler's List" worked it the best and showed genius. The black and white made it historic in feeling and distanced us from the blood, unlike the main part of the two "Kill Bills." In "Schindler's List" the violence was all at once more real and powerful because it was not shown in color.
Black and white is the counterpoint to the attempts such as "Final Fantasy" and "Sky Captain" The color is used to hide the fact the characters aren't human while black and white hides that they are so that their actions are more crisp. Strange that it is impressionism without the color; that were it color, we come to expect from impressionist painters. The story telling seems better.
When Rufus Thomas says "I was a Drill. I was a Coaster. I was part of the Gang. I was a Bar-K. If they came through Texas, I done played with them," and the white smoke curls up. That moment would not have worked if we saw that in color.