There was, of course, a time when life itself was in black and white.
How else can we explain the photographs and newsreel footage we’ve seen from the late 19th/early 20th century? A train pulling into a station, a voyage to the moon, a great train robbery – all in stark monochrome, a world in shades of grey, with no reds, greens or blues to be found.
Life must have been strange then – no rainbows after summer showers, Skittles presumably tasteless (and much less popular), absolutely no market for colouring books… Choosing a shade of paint for the front room must have been simpler though.
Putting that slightly laboured silliness aside, at Belmont Filmhouse we’re often in the business of seeing the world in black and white – usually through re-issues and restorations of classic cinema (see the recent Mildred Pierce, or check out our next brochure for Agnès Varda’s Cleo from 5 to 7), but there are notable examples of tremendous new monochrome cinema – films shot in black and white by choice.
In 2014, we were treated to one such delight in Pawel Pawlikowski’s striking, intimate drama Ida – the story of an 18-year-old in 1960s Poland who, on the verge of taking her vows as a nun, discovers a dark family secret from the years of Nazi occupation decades earlier. The cinematography – impeccably lit scenes, stark snowy landscapes, symbols of divine presence contrasted with the scars of war – is almost unimaginable in anything other than stark black and white, and was one of many reasons why it was one of the best films of that year.
The exciting news, dear reader, is that Pawlikowski is back. Back with a new monochrome wonder that may even exceed the qualities of Ida. Back with a film that won him Best Director at Cannes. Back with Cold War.
Join us from Friday 31 August for this exquisite, bittersweet love story, set against the Cold War politics of 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris and with a lead pairing (Joanna Kulig and Tomasz Kot) named after the director’s own parents, Wiktor and Zula. It’s a lean 88 minutes of some of the finest cinema you’ll see in 2018.
If you’re looking for a different shade of cinema after that, we can also wholeheartedly recommend the fab French comedy C’est la vie! – from the co-directors of the most successful French film of all time (Intouchable/The Intouchables) and featuring a terrific, witty script. Set at a lavish wedding where everything naturally begins to unravel, it’s got a stellar ensemble cast and delighted audiences down at Edinburgh International Film Festival this year too.
And if you haven’t caught BlacKkKlansman yet, Spike Lee’s acerbic latest - which incidentally skewers such venerated black-and-white fare as The Birth of a Nation - is screening at Belmont until Thursday 13 September.