Black and White in Color


1h 32m 1977

Brief Synopsis

French colonists in Africa, several months behind in the news, find themselves at war with their German neighbors. Deciding that they must do their proper duty and fight the Germans, they promptly conscript the local native population. Issuing them boots and rifles, the French attempt to make "proper" soldiers out of the Africans. A young, idealistic French geographer seems to be the only rational person in the town, and he takes over control of the "war" after several bungles on the part of the others.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1977

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Synopsis

When war is declared in Europe in 1914, a group of French colonials in West Africa decide to attack a nearby German fort.

Film Details

MPAA Rating
Release Date
1977

Technical Specs

Duration
1h 32m
Sound
Mono
Color
Color (Eastmancolor)

Award Wins

Best Foreign Language Film

1976

Articles

Black and White in Color


Satire is a tricky thing to control, even when the subject you're skewering is trivial, so you're really asking for trouble when you try to make a comedy about openly racist colonialism. Jean-Jacques Annaud's Black and White in Color, a new DVD release from Home Vision Entertainment, managed to sidestep any possible misunderstandings by pushing its hot-topic buttons to a ridiculously over-pronounced degree. This movie actually snagged the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1976, quite a feat when you consider that its harshest jokes can make even the most knowing audience member uncomfortable.

Annaud's characters aren't secret softies a la Archie Bunker. More often than not, they're mean-spirited idiots. Set in French Equatorial Africa in 1915, the story is loosely inspired by actual events that occurred shortly after the start of World War I. A handful of white, French priests and shopkeepers who live in a small French-African colony belatedly discover that their homeland is fighting Germany. Filled with patriotic pride, they recruit a group of natives, then plan an attack on a German outpost a few miles across the border. The only military man in their group (Jean Carmet, who plays the most sympathetic white character) halfhearted agrees to lead the charge.

These guys seem incapable of wreaking real havoc, and they don't: The Germans come after them guns blazing, turning the sneak attack into a violent miscalculation in which several of the natives are killed. Upon returning to their village, the makeshift "army" prepares for a German counter-attack. At this point, the white villagers take advantage of their superior social position and start recruiting new natives to replace the ones who were killed. Needless to say, the plan doesn't go smoothly. Every institution from the church to the military takes hits in this movie, and many of the shots are right on target. You might even hate yourself for laughing at the very idiocy that infuriates you in real life.

The DVD of Black and White in Color features a crisp, brightly colored 16:9 transfer. There's no problem with the audio, and all of the subtitles are very easy to read. (One would imagine the jokes are translated well, since they so often score with a laugh.) There are also two interviews with director Annaud and producer Arthur Cohn. One revelation is that the original version of the movie was a mess, and was supposedly saved by a new editor. Of course, that's hardly the first time that's happened. Editors are usually the unsung heroes of the filmmaking process.

Oddly, Home Vision Entertainment includes another "extra" that's worth owning on its own. The Sky Above, The Mud Below (1961) is an 88-minute documentary about a journey into New Guinea to find a tribe of headhunters. When the headhunters are located, the camera records a variety of shocking, primitive rituals. The Sky Above, The Mud Below won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1961, and deserves better treatment than to simply be tacked on as a bonus. Then again, if it was released solo, most people probably wouldn't pick it up. Better that it rides the other picture's coattails and those headhunters and they're vanishing way of life gets some exposure.

For more information about Black and White in Color, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Black and White in Color, go to TCM Shopping.

by Paul Tatara
Black And White In Color

Black and White in Color

Satire is a tricky thing to control, even when the subject you're skewering is trivial, so you're really asking for trouble when you try to make a comedy about openly racist colonialism. Jean-Jacques Annaud's Black and White in Color, a new DVD release from Home Vision Entertainment, managed to sidestep any possible misunderstandings by pushing its hot-topic buttons to a ridiculously over-pronounced degree. This movie actually snagged the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1976, quite a feat when you consider that its harshest jokes can make even the most knowing audience member uncomfortable. Annaud's characters aren't secret softies a la Archie Bunker. More often than not, they're mean-spirited idiots. Set in French Equatorial Africa in 1915, the story is loosely inspired by actual events that occurred shortly after the start of World War I. A handful of white, French priests and shopkeepers who live in a small French-African colony belatedly discover that their homeland is fighting Germany. Filled with patriotic pride, they recruit a group of natives, then plan an attack on a German outpost a few miles across the border. The only military man in their group (Jean Carmet, who plays the most sympathetic white character) halfhearted agrees to lead the charge. These guys seem incapable of wreaking real havoc, and they don't: The Germans come after them guns blazing, turning the sneak attack into a violent miscalculation in which several of the natives are killed. Upon returning to their village, the makeshift "army" prepares for a German counter-attack. At this point, the white villagers take advantage of their superior social position and start recruiting new natives to replace the ones who were killed. Needless to say, the plan doesn't go smoothly. Every institution from the church to the military takes hits in this movie, and many of the shots are right on target. You might even hate yourself for laughing at the very idiocy that infuriates you in real life. The DVD of Black and White in Color features a crisp, brightly colored 16:9 transfer. There's no problem with the audio, and all of the subtitles are very easy to read. (One would imagine the jokes are translated well, since they so often score with a laugh.) There are also two interviews with director Annaud and producer Arthur Cohn. One revelation is that the original version of the movie was a mess, and was supposedly saved by a new editor. Of course, that's hardly the first time that's happened. Editors are usually the unsung heroes of the filmmaking process. Oddly, Home Vision Entertainment includes another "extra" that's worth owning on its own. The Sky Above, The Mud Below (1961) is an 88-minute documentary about a journey into New Guinea to find a tribe of headhunters. When the headhunters are located, the camera records a variety of shocking, primitive rituals. The Sky Above, The Mud Below won the Oscar for Best Documentary in 1961, and deserves better treatment than to simply be tacked on as a bonus. Then again, if it was released solo, most people probably wouldn't pick it up. Better that it rides the other picture's coattails and those headhunters and they're vanishing way of life gets some exposure. For more information about Black and White in Color, visit Home Vision Entertainment. To order Black and White in Color, go to TCM Shopping. by Paul Tatara

Quotes

Trivia

Miscellaneous Notes

Released in United States March 1987

Released in United States on Video March 1988

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1977

Released in United States Winter January 1, 1977

Released in United States March 1987 (Shown at AFI/Los Angeles International Film Festival (Arthur Cohn Tribute) March 11-26, 1987.)

Released in United States on Video March 1988