filmmakers have quite a few options. They may choose to place a character in a realistic spaceship; they may choose to shoot their film from dynamic angles which push the limits of filmmaking; they may choose to have a dinosaur wander through the city or they may choose to shoot the movements of micro-bacteria. They may also make the choice as to whether they wish to shoot their film in black and white, in color, or in a combination of the mediums.
Films such as Schindler's List and Pleasantville are excellent examples of films wherein the filmmakers understood that the juxtaposition of color and black and white have an effect on the audience. In Schindler's List, the audience watches a small girl in a bright red jacket flee Nazis during a raid. She draws the eye and as a result has a profound effect on the audience.
In Pleasantville, black and white indicates a separate universe. The color universe is the normal every day world, whereas the black and white universe is a television world of the past. This use of color to distinguish different realities was also used in The Wizard of Oz.
Modern filmmakers are very careful about their choices as to where they might use color and where they might use black and white. They understand how these different mediums work with one another. They understand how to captivate an audience through the use of color.
Early filmmakers did not have this choice. Their cameras were capable of shooting black and white footage and that's it. They did not have modern special effects or modern colorization techniques. They were limited by their technology.
Historically in the arts, limitation has been a good thing. After the Interregnum in England, Restoration playwrights created some of their most biting comedy while fashioning it to bypass censors of the day. Similarly, Frederico Garcia Lorca, the Spanish playwright, wrote some of his most fantastic work during the fascist rule of Franco. He too was writing work that was critical of the government in subtext, but certainly not in an overt manner. Eric Clapton, limited by the bounds of his guitar has found ways to make it sound like a piano... Artists throughout the ages have been engaged by limitation.
Early filmmakers were limited by black and white film. However, many used this form to a degree of artistry that arguably has not been surpassed. Alfred Hitchcock made us feel oppressed through the use of his black and white footage in Psycho. On the other hand, the black and white footage of George Bailey running through the streets as fresh snow sprinkles down on top of him in It's a Wonderful Life is filmed in such a way that one cannot help but feel impressed and elated by it. In old movie musicals the gowns that the women wore were such that they would look better in black and white. Indeed, there is a crispness to these films that often doesn't appear in the modern movie.
The first explorations of the use of color began in the 1930s. Indeed, the first Hollywood full-color film was Becky Sharp produced in 1934. Between 1934 and 1960 there is a lot of variety in whether or not films are in color. Many of these early filmmakers had the option to make a film or a sequence in a film in color. They chose not to.
These filmmakers understood their medium and it is extremely questionable as to whether or not one should change that. It becomes even more questionable when looking at these films that were produced during a time period when directors had the option of color.
Would it be alright to add color to a gray sculpture? Would it be okay to add a paint stroke to a Picasso? Is it alright to add color to a black and white still photograph?
The question comes down to artist intent. What did the artist intend the audience to see? If the audience is seeing what the artist wanted them too, then to make a change on said piece of artwork is immoral.
Thus a controversy has been born between those who advocate strong moral rights, namely the right of integrity, and those who advocate their rights to derivative work of what has entered into the public domain. The European view, being true to the value to art and artistic rights, has been one of strong protection to the artists integrity right. Since such a right, as we saw above, is a personal, permanent and inalienable right, then, it does not matter if a work has entered the public domain. As far as the right of integrity of the artist is concerned, he still has a control upon what changes can be done to his work. (Taradji, Pg 1)
The argument that has been made against artistic control revolves around a number of issues. First off, in film, the studio ultimately can do whatever they want with the film. The artists behind a given film were not the ones that funded it. This is problematic for directors even today. Many have sequences or key scenes cut or toned down because those who are producing the film don't see the need or the artistry behind a given element of a film. The result is that many films end up playing at the theatre in a format that the director is ultimately unhappy with.
Then again, beyond the initial issues that directors have with their producers, films are usually reedited for television all the time. Scenes are cut, the camera is panned back and forth, and there are commercials added in all sorts of strange places. Shouldn't it be alright to add color too?
The answer is no. The cuts and changes that are being forced upon films so that they fit the television medium is already immoral in nature and an affront to the artists who made the movies.
We feel that new technologies, such as colorization, panning-and-scanning, and lexiconing, have changed the conditions under which original works have been protected by copyright in the past. We feel that the authors of these original works ought to have the right to protect them from subsequent alterations, when they are shown on television. European filmmakers have enjoyed such rights for years. We believe that the work of American filmmakers ought to be similarly protected. (Society for Cinema Studies, Pg 2)
There is a second argument. Some believe that the process of adding color to a film is simple. They believe that all one has to do is to put the film into a computer and press a button. This is not true. The reality is that for one to add color to a black and white film, one must have an artistic eye. The hues of the costumes and the color of the actors skin must be right. A computer cannot judge these things. The result is that those who are putting color into a film are indeed artists.
This particular argument draws back to the original precept that adding a paint stroke on a Picasso is still vandalism. It doesn't matter how good an artist one may be, because to change a master work in any way is questionable at best.
To Woody Allen, "colorization" of films is a "monstrous, disgusting, horrible, sinful, absurd, humiliating, preposterous, and insulting mutilation and defacing of genuine works of art, in which computers are used to 'doctor' and 'tamper' with the 'great originals,' thereby creating degraded, cheesy, artificial symbols of one society's greed." To others, colorization is simply another new technological process that can be used to innovative purposes which includes colorizing films. (Taradji, Pg 1)
Many younger film-goers have an issue with films in black and white. Teenagers…