Black and white is in many ways the purest form of cinematic expression.
It's the way the first audiences experienced movies and, when seen through the prism of the best filmmakers and cinematographers, it offers a moviegoing experience that evokes the notion of the cinema as dream factory in a fashion that the hyper-realism of color cannot.
BAM offers a veritable clinic in Cinemascope, the widescreen format introduced in 1953 that was intended for color but also facilitated some of the most timeless black-and-white classics, with "Black & White 'Scope: American Cinema," a 21-film festival beginning Friday and running through March 17.
Series highlights include two terrific films by Billy Wilder, the witty chronicler of the human condition who played a big role in modernizing the dramedy. First up is "The Apartment," arguably his masterpiece, a five-time Oscar winner set in NYC about a lonely man (Jack Lemmon) who lends his apartment to co-workers for their affairs. It's a beautiful and moving portrait of urban isolation.
There's also the hilarious Cold War satire "One, Two, Three," starring James Cagney and a whole lot of clever rapid-fire action and dialogue, not to mention a rare depiction of West Berlin before the construction of the wall.
Paul Newman is well-represented over the next few weeks. He stars against grand, dusty Texas vistas in "Hud," inside smoky, atmospheric pool halls in "The Hustler" and in Martin Ritt's "Rashomon" remake "The Outrage."
There's the classic "In Cold Blood" adaptation, shot on the real locations where the murders and prison conversations that spurred Truman Capote's iconic book took place.
Fred Zinneman's New York City-set "A Hatful of Rain," a 1957 film about a morphine addict, is known for its grit.
Finally, there's "Manhattan," Woody Allen's tribute to his beloved borough in which "Rhapsody In Blue" accompanies gorgeous widescreen images of the waking, bustling city and the great cinematographer Gordon Willis captured the spirit of New York in one shot: a long take of Allen and Diane Keaton perched on a bench overlooking the East River under a cloudy early-morning sky, with a dimly-lit Queensboro Bridge seeming to stretch to infinity.