Stefan Kanfer has a lovely tribute to classical American cinema. He dwells on black-and-white photography, but doesn’t mention the tone palette, one of the principal problems with colorization and one of the principal glories of the technique. People tend to think that black and white films look the way they do solely because they couldn’t be shot in color, when in fact, the lighting, makeup, scene painting, etc., all was very, very carefully calibrated to make them look exactly as they did. The great directors and cinematographers of the black and white era were as careful and masterful with chiaroscuro as Peter Paul Rubens, Rembrandt, and Castiglone. Modern viewers are stunned by the aesthetic of a Sin City, when it’s orders of magnitude more simplistic than any above average movie from the 1940s—which they generally ignore.
Pick up any of the movies Kanfer mentions—Dracula, High Noon, Twelve Angry Men—and watch some of it with the sound off. You’ll be amazed.
That said, if you want to see some terrific light-and-dark in a modern movie, check out Cinema Paradiso. Just genius.
Don’t ask impertinent questions like that jackass Adept Lu.