This century's best black-and-white films

Cut & Wrapped: Dazed goes mad for monochrome with Ida, Frances Ha and its B&W cohorts

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Top film festival honours at both London and Warsaw this week were won by Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida - a Polish road-movie with a bleak post-war bent that was shot in luminous black-and-white. With a host of directors turning their backs on colour of late, here's some high-points in this-century monochrome. 

Computer Chess (2013)

Mumblecore originator Andrew Bujalski goes retro for a hilariously odd and philosophically smart lo-fi portrayal of a 1980 tournament for man-versus-machine chess software developers in the US. The film's cruddy, video-shot look evokes a pre-digital era of big-as-your-fridge, unslick tech.

Frances Ha (2013)

Noah Baumbach also takes the US indie back to monochrome for a touch of '70s-era Woody Allen in this comically bittersweet portrayal of a down-on-her-luck New York dancer (Greta Gerwig) who stumbles from awkward moment to awkward moment.

Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)

No-one understands the heavy beauty of black-and-white for old world cinema outside pop culture time like Hungarian auteur Bela Tarr. In our favourite, a sinister travelling circus arrives in a small town, carting a huge whale carcass. With them is a shadowy figure, whose nihilistic rants incite a riot. 

Tabu (2012)

Oscar-winner The Artist isn't the only film to have milked nostalgia for silent-era classics. In Portuguese director Miguel Gomes’s strange arthouse hit an ageing man in modern-day Lisbon tells of the ill-fated love affair of his youth, transporting us to an African colony haunted by a melancholy crocodile.

La Antena (2007)

The silent era also inspired this quirky Argentinian fairytale about political oppression and resistance. In a surreal Buenos Aires where it snows, the citizens have been robbed of their voices - all except an elegant, hooded singer and her eyeless son who hold the only hope for liberation.

Control (2007)

Anton Corbijn goes monochrome for cool nostalgia of a different sort with his biopic on the life and death of Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis, superbly played by Sam Riley, in England's stark industrial North.

Keyhole (2011)

Guy Maddin's loopily surreal twist on early-era noir is set in a dusty mansion teeming with noisy ghosts. Returning after a long absence, hardened gangster Ulysses Pick (Jason Patric) embarks on a bizarre journey through his home’s shadowy passages to reach his wife Hyacinth (Isabella Rossellini).

The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

The Coen brothers also go neo-noir in this downbeat tale of a chain-smoking barber (Billy Bob Thornton) whose plan to blackmail his hard-drinking wife's lover (James Gandolfini) so that he can invest in a new invention called dry cleaning goes horribly awry.

The Temptation of St Tony (2010)

Estonian director Veiko Õunpuu darkly absurdist film is dense in echoes from torment-heavy medievalism to the surrealism of Buñuel as it updates its take on the tribulations of saints to the values of a corporate age - portraying the existential crisis of one middle manager.

Regular Lovers (2005)

Philippe Garrel taps his New Wave predecessors with this film about Francois (Louis Garrel), a young Parisian who lounges round smoking opium and spouting poetry in the aftermath of 1968’s revolutionary fervour. One activist laments being torn between “the pleasure of wearing bright colours and the necessity of wearing dark”. For cinema like this, monochrome’s the only option.

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