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TECHNOLOGY THAT, LIKE ALL TECHNOLOGIES, WILL GET BETTER AND
BETTER WITH USE.
THE FUNDAMENTAL ISSUE AT HAND IS NOT HOW
GOOD IT IS.
.NOT WHETHER OR NOT COLOR IS IPSO-FACTO BETTER
THAN BLACK AND WHITE, BUT THAT IT IS NOT IN ANY SENSE THE
SAME AS BLACK AND WHITE.
THAT IT REPRESENTS A CREATIVE
THAT THE WHOLE ART OF DIRECTING IS BASED ENTIRELY ON
DIRECTOR IS TAKEN FROM THE SUM OF HIS OR HER CHOICES, AND TO
TAKE THAT AWAY FROM THE DIRECTOR IS ESSENTIALLY TO ROB HIM OR
HER OF WHO AND WHAT THEY ARE.
FROM THE MOMENT OF CHOOSING TO DO A SPECIFIC FILM
THE PROCESS BEGINS.
THROUGH THE CHOICE OF WRITER OR WRITERS,
AND WITH THE WRITER THE CHOICE OF CONTENT IN EACH SCENE,
CHOICE OF WHO WILL PLAY THE ROLES, WHO WILL PHOTOGRAPH THE
FILM, DESIGN THE SETS, IN WHAT CITY WILL IT BE SHOT, SHALL IT
BE WIDE SCREEN OR FLAT, WHAT WILL THE ACTORS WEAR, WHO WILL
DESIGN THE CLOTHES,
WHO WILL EDIT THE EXPOSED FILM WHEN
SHOOTING IS FINISHED, WHAT SHALL THE STYLE BE?. .
. WHERE WILL THE ACTORS MOVE, HOW LONG SHOULD THEY
PAUSE BETWEEN MOMENTS, SHOULD WE SEE THEM FROM THE FRONT OR
THE BACK, IN CLOSE UP OR LONG SHOT, BRIGHTLY LIT OR SKETCHY?
FIDDLES WITH RUBBER BANDS, MAYBE SHE CHEWS GUM.
IT ALL MAKES
IT A BRIGHT SUNNY DAY OR SHOULD WE MAKE RAIN?. .
. HOW MANY
CONFUSED. . .HARD TO SEE AND HEAR THEM.
. MAYBE SEE THEM
ONLY IN SNATCHES.
.MORE OF AN IMPRESSION?
SHOULD WE SEE
HER FALL DOWN OR ONLY HEAR THE SOUND AND PHOTOGRAPH SOMETHING
SHOULD WE PUT THE TITLES OVER BLACK OR OVER THE FIRST
SHOULD THIS SCENE BEGIN IN A CLOSE SHOT OR IN A LONG
SCENE, WHAT HAPPENS IF WE TAKE OUT THE DIALOGUE AND JUST PLAY
THAN BREATHING, EVEN THOUGH WE ARE OUTSIDE AND SEE
AND CHILDREN PLAYING?
THE PRINT IS TOO DARK, OR TOO LIGHT OR
TOO YELLOW OR TOO BLUE.
BLUE IS COLDER, MAKES A DIFFERENT
MOOD, THE PEOPLE SEEM HAPPIER WHEN THEIR FACES ARE MORE
EACH CHOICE CHANGES, IN SOME WAY, THE
SIGNALS WE ARE SENDING TO THE AUDIENCE.
EACH AREA REQUIRES
FLUENCY IN ONE OF THE VOCABULARIES WE USE TO COMMUNICATE, A
TOOL OUT OF WHICH ONE SCULPTS THE FINISHED FILM.
IT IS MADE
OF NOTHING ELSE.
ONLY THE SUM OF THESE CHOICES.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FILM IN BLACK AND WHITE AND A FILM IN COLOR. BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY IS
NOT COLOR PHOTOGRAPHY WITH THE COLOR REMOVED.
IT IS NOT
BETTER OR WORSE IN GENERAL, BUT IT IS DIFFERENT.
IT IS. . .A
A FILMMAKER HAS NOTHING OTHER THAN THE QUALITY AND
INTEGRITY OF HIS OR HER WORK, AND THAT QUALITY AND INTEGRITY
OF ABSOLUTELY NOTHING BUT THIS SERIES OF CHOICES.
WE ARE HERE TO PROTECT THOSE CHOICES, EVEN TO SAY THAT A DIRECTOR WHO DOES NOT MAKE THOSE CHOICES IS NOT DIRECTING.
WHAT YOU SEE AND HEAR IS WHAT THE FILM IS.
CHANGING WHAT YOU
SEE IS ALTERING WHAT THE FILM IS.
IT IS IRONIC THAT IN THE UNITED STATES, WHERE THE
MOTION PICTURE WAS CREATED, WE WHO MAKE THE FILMS HAVE LESS
PROTECTION WITH OUR OWN COUNTRY THAN WE HAVE IN FRANCE, OR
ITALY OR JAPAN.
THE FACT THAT I HAPPEN TO PREFER BLACK AND WHITE
FOR "THE MALTESE FALCON" IS NOT FINALLY THE DECIDING FACTOR.
THE FACT THAT I AGREE WITH VINCENT CANBY WHO WROTE IN THE NEW
YORK TIMES, SUNDAY, APRIL 19TH:
"THROUGH THE AUSPICES OF
COLOR SYSTEMS TECHNOLOGY, 'THE MALTESE FALCON' IS NOW MOSTLY
GRAYISH-BLUE, AND HIS FEDORA A CHANGEABLE, LIGHT GRAYISH-BLUE
(THOUGH IT FREQUENTLY TURNS KHAKI COLOR, EVEN WHILE ON HIS
PANCAKE MAKEUP, CREATING HEAVENLY HALOS AROUND THEIR FACES IN
SEEMS TO HAVE DYED HIS HAIR IN THE SAME VAT OF RAISIN-COLORED
OPPONENTS OF SO-CALLED "COLORIZATION' COULDN'T ASK
FOR A BETTER ARGUMENT THAN THIS."
PERHAPS THESE CONCERNS
MUST BE BRUSHED ASIDE IN THE INTERESTS OF WHAT WE ARE TOLD IS
EVEN THE FACT THAT I AM HEARTBROKEN AT THE
PROSPECT OF SEEING INGRID BERGMAN SAY THAT LAST GOODBYE TO
'BOGIE' THROUGH ALL THAT FOG (IN "CASABLANCA") IN SOME KIND
OF MADE UP,
TACKED ON COLOR,
COLOR, IS PERHAPS BESIDE THE POINT.
DIRECTOR WHO HE OR SHE IS AND WHAT HE OR SHE DOES, WHICH IS
Senator LEAHY. Thank you, Mr. Pollack. I think you made your position very clear.
Mr. Allen, if we could have testimony from you, sir, and then from Mr. Forman. Then I will have a series of questions for the panel.
STATEMENT OF WOODY ALLEN Mr. ALLEN. Let us just say that a very rich man has purchased all the films ever made in Hollywood. He calls together his staff and says, “Take all the black and white ones and turn them into color using our new computer.” The technicians get right to work implementing this because they are used to following orders. One man among them, however, is puzzled and asks his employer, “I don't understand—why paint them over with color?”'
And the boss says, "Because more people will watch them.” “Really?" the underling asks.
“Yes," the boss answers. “The American public is very, very stupid, very infantile. In fact they're idiots. They can't enjoy a film unless it's full of bright colors and rock music. The story means nothing—the plot—the acting—just give the fools reds and yellows and they'll smile.'
The worker is confused, and tells his boss that for generations people have been watching and adoring films in black and white. He points to “It's A Wonderful Life,” viewed by millions every Christmas on television. He points to “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Sergeant York” and “Citizen Kane” and “The Maltese Falcon” and “On The Waterfront.”
“They're great films,” the boss says. “But I'm going to improve them. They'll be greater when I'm finished with them.
“But the director of 'Citizen Kane’ is dead. Who'll tell you what colors it should be?”
“We have men to do that. It's true—they've never directed films and know nothing about it, but they sure can work computers and between you and me-does it really make a difference if James Cagney's jacket is green or yellow when he shoots Humphrey Bogart in Public Enemy'?”
The poor underling is losing his resolve. “By the way,” he asks, "you mentioned adding rock music?”'
“Oh, that's in the future,” the boss says. “First color, then maybe we replace the score of 'Gone With The Wind' with rock. I have lots of ideas.”
Now, you might get the impression from all this that I am against colorization of black-and-white films but, believe it or not, you would be wrong. If a movie director wishes his film to be colorized, then I say by all means, let him color it. If he prefers it to remain in black and white, then it is sinful to force him to change it. If the director is not alive and his work has been historically established in black and white, it should remain true to its origin. The presumption that the colorizers are doing him a favor and bettering his movie is a transparent attempt to justify the mutilation of art for a few extra dollars.
The colorizers will tell you that it's proven no one wants black and white, but this is not true, and if it were—if audiences who
have grown up on mindless television were so desensitized that a move like “It Happened One Night,” which has been delighting people in black and white for generations now had to be viewed in color to be appreciated, then the task would be to cultivate the audience back to some level of maturity rather than to doctor the film artificially to keep up with lowered tastes. Not only do the colorizers have contempt for the American public but also for the artist. A large number of American movies are classics both at home and all over the world. Thinking they were making popular entertainment, American filmmakers have produced numerous motion pictures that are considered genuine works of art comparable to fine literature, painting and music. But the colorizers have no regard for the man who made these movies, and when a great American director like John Huston says he doesn't want his superb mystery “The Maltese Falcon” made into a color movie because that makes this hard-boiled Bogart film silly looking, they couldn't care less what Huston wants. The colorizers also tell us that a viewer can simply turn off the color and see the film in black and white. The fact that the man who made the film wants no one at all to see it in color means nothing to them. Finally, they say we live in a democracy and the public wants these films in color, but if members of the public had the right to demand alterations to suit their taste, the world would have no real art. Nothing would be safe. Picasso would have been changed years ago and James Joyce and Stravinsky, and the list goes on.
The example of John Huston, incidentally, is particularly meaningful to me because the aesthetic differences between color and black and white is a subject that hits home in my own work. In an era of almost exclusively color films, I have chosen on a number of occasions, even fought for the privilege, of telling stories with blackand-white photography. Indeed, the different effect between color and black and white is often so wide it alters the meaning of
If I had portrayed New York City in color rather than black and white in my movie “Manhattan," all the nostalgic connotations would have vanished. All the evocation of the city from old photographs and films would have been impossible to achieve in glorious technicolor. Whereas, if I had filmed “Annie Hall” in black and white, all the scenes that now come off amusingly would take a giant step toward grim seriousness by mere virtue of them suddenly being grittier and less cartoonlike. One has only to think of a film like "Bicycle Thief" and imagine the life and death search through post-war Rome for the precious bicycle being in reds and yellows and blues rather than the hot whites and dirty blacks and greys and one sees how absurd the whole thing is.
And it is not just drama. Musicals, just because they are bouncy, are not helped by the addition of color where it doesn't belong either. Part of the artistic experience of seeing old Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire films is the period quality—the black-and-white photography gives its entire feel. When Astaire made color musicals in a later period, they have a totally different quality that reflects beautifully their particular era. They are not better or worse, but completely different and true to themselves.