It’s A Wonderful Life – in black and white, or colour?

I was returning a printer cable I borrowed from my uncle.  This was a few days ago.  While I was there he had ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ on, the classic Christmasy film with James Stewart and..I don’t know who everyone else is but I’m sure they’re famous.  I say Christmasy because I think it’s too good to be labelled just a Christmas film – it’s a classic.

Anyway, so I watched it with him.  In COLOUR.  Because he’d bought, for £15, an anniversary edition with both the black and white version and a new, bright, sparkly colour version.

I can’t believe they’ve done this.  Why mess with a good thing?  I hate the way today we think just because we can do stuff with technological wizzadry, we should.

It was little things, like when Violet is walking past in a dress “oh this old thing”, they’ve coloured it pink.  In my imagination that dress has and always will be white with a slight lavender hue.  Don’t ask me why.  That’s just my imagined colour.  Same witht the big dance feature in the hall when the floor parts.  Mary’s dress is a colour I never dreamed of, a frilly duck egg blue confection – yuk.

By the way, I differentiate between colourizing a film and restoring a film.  I am not opposed to taking a grainy/damaged film and helping it back to it’s former self.  Restoration = good.

There were some bits I thought were nicely done, but I stand by my original feeling.  It didn’t need messing with.  And people are buying it for £15, that’s just odd to me.


7 thoughts on “It’s A Wonderful Life – in black and white, or colour?

  1. You’re right, BS, it’s yet another saccharine example of sheer Crasswood hollyness! M
    PS I suppose you could consider yourself lucky it wasn’t the creepy ‘Boys’ Town’ or ‘The Bells of St Wotsit’s’.

  2. I like the original as well, but the versions are sold in both so people get to make a choice of their own so its not like it is taking over. I also want to just add that the colors that are in the colorized version are what the people who made the film chose. We see Black and White, but they saw those colors in real life when they weren’t looking in the camera and that counted towards the choices they made.

    • What you are not taking into account, Joseph, is that in monochrome film-making the tones are all-important and they became highly subtle over the course of the first half of the Twentieth Century, leading to the light and shade effects in Film Noir, e.g. in the work of Fritz Lang, which are essentially the same as in Expressionist Painting. When colour is used by Expressionist painters and neo-Noir auteurs the hues balance the tones and are nothing like ‘real life’. Indeed,deliberately exaggerated hues extend the way tone is used to tell the story. It’s not just a matter of filling in the colours. But studios often think it is and/or go for the market niche where ‘artistic values’ is a phrase unheard of.

      This is not an anti-colour rant, simply a plea for integrity. The applies at the present time to the unfortunate and headache-making practice of remastering films in 3D. Films made in sound/colour/3D are a different matter entirely.

  3. I’m out of my depth here in the technical side – maybe BM, you could explain the difference between a hue and tone so I can understand better?

    I love the style of film noir and I love the way there’s a dewyness around faces, sort of a halo effect.

    I’ll know about this stuff soon as I’m taking a phptp course but for now I don’t know the ins and outs,

    • Hue is colour, tone is dark and light. My point about expressionism relates to the layers of dark and light, a metaphor for human relationships if you like, typically but not necessarily with a division straight down the middle of the nose, and if need be emphasising or even changing the colours, subordinating hue to tone. Some Impressionists and Fauvists did that as well.

      My problem with colouring ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is that it makes the whole thing far too sweet and simplistic. The protagonist is clearly suffering at one point from reactive depression and the theme of the film is that he should count his blessings and snap out of it. Would that it were that easy.

      I hope you’re enjoying a really good Christmas! We certainly are.

      M 😀 😀

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