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Black and White in Color
Black and White in Color
Actors: Jean Carmet, Catherine Rouvel, Jacques Spiesser, Herve de Maigret, William Dexter
Directors: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Military & War
PG     2003     3hr 0min

Winner of the 1976 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Black and White in Color is a voracious and timely satire on racism, colonialism, and war. Set in the Ivory Coast during the First World War, a group of b...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Jean Carmet, Catherine Rouvel, Jacques Spiesser, Herve de Maigret, William Dexter
Directors: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau
Creators: Jean-Jacques Annaud, Pierre-Dominique Gaisseau, Arthur Cohn, Giorgio Silagni, Jacques Perrin, Georges Conchon
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Military & War
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Drama, Military & War
Studio: Homevision
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 06/24/2003
Original Release Date: 05/08/1977
Theatrical Release Date: 05/08/1977
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 3hr 0min
Screens: Color,Widescreen,Letterboxed
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 8
MPAA Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Languages: French, German
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

The folly of war
John H. Davis | Bellingham, WA, USA | 09/14/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I first saw this on the big screen when I was a university student. It starts by showing that the French colonists totally misunderstand not only the local language but also the local culture and their relationship to the local people. Then the movie depicts the facical nature of some of the proselytizing. When the news comes of the war and the colonists decide to attack their erstwhile colleague, the German who buys/bought supplies from them, they turn to a young man and ask him to be their military leader. After they get him to agree, they are shocked that he seems to respect the local tribesmen as much as he does them, his white countrymen. After the news comes that the war is over, the young French commander and the young German commander walk along together, talking of their previous lives -- and the viewer realizes that they are in effect the same person, the young man thrust forward into the folly of war by his unthinking countrymen. In order to better understand the theater of war, a potential viewer might wish to look at some maps of the political boundaries in Africa before The Great War. This setting for this movie is equatorial region of the continent of Africa, not the country of South Africa."
A funny, effective and surprisingly gentle satire on hubris,
C. O. DeRiemer | San Antonio, Texas, USA | 10/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"What day should be chosen to attack the Germans just up the river, ponders the French in flea-ridden Ft. Coulais, in the Ivory Coast? "You can't go wrong choosing the Lord's Day," urges one of the two priests, with the other nodding enthusiastically. Please note that elements of the plot are discussed, but nothing that also isn't mentioned on the back-cover of the case and in the accompanying insert

Black and White in Color tells the story of a motley group of Frenchmen, including a few shopkeepers, at a colonial outpost in Africa who learn belatedly that World War I is underway. Since a German outpost, with three Germans, is just a few miles away, La Gloire and honor dictate an attack. Of course, the real fighting will be done by hastily recruited natives on both sides. The fort's young teacher, Hubert Fresnoy (Jacques Spieser) had heard that there is a sensible German and says he wants to try to negotiate. With La Gloire, that would be impossible. The shopkeepers demand French honor be sustained with an immediate attack on the Germans with whom they'd been trading (and unknowingly sharing their wives) just days before.

And off they go. The shopkeepers, two priests and two wives are carried in palanquins by natives. The hastily recruited and untrained native soldiers are armed with old rifles and some slightly damp powder. They're led by the tired and realistic Sergeant Bosselet (Jean Carmet) only three years from retirement. The teacher reluctantly tags along. And they all -- well, the whites -- stop for a picnic just before the battle starts. War, they appreciate, can be great fun as well as a source of great pride. Unfortunately, the Germans have machine guns. As the native troops stagger back, the whites hastily pack up the food and dishes and head quickly back to the fort. Surrender seems the logical next step to the shopkeepers, even though no one has yet seen a German. But La Gloire prevails: No long as the Germans stay away!

Now the amusing part really begins. The teacher, who had been ridiculed by the shopkeepers as being all brains and no heart, decides to step in. He convinces the sergeant, who needs all the brains he can find, to back him up as he plans for the defense of Ft. Coulais. Before long we begin to notice that the teacher is not only training the troops, he is turning the fort's colonial society on it's head. The casual corruption of the self-inflating shopkeepers is exposed. Positions of authority are being given to natives. The teacher's mistress, a black woman, accompanies him to another picnic, and this time the wives and shopkeepers find themselves shaking her hand.

All good things come to an end, of course, and so does World War I. A British company led by a Sikh captain marches into Ft. Coulais with bagpipes playing to inform them that the German colony is now a British colony. The war is over; the next-door enemy has become an ally. And the teacher, a Socialist, who was well on his way to becoming a benevolent and anti-colonial dictator, is last seen wandering off with his German counterpart, who is also a Socialist.

This was director Jean-Paul Annaud's first film. It's a wonderfully sardonic, amusing movie about hubris, patriotism and racism, and surprisingly gentle. Those who believe that "glory" can come without a steep price, who believe war is a great adventure as long as it's experienced at a distance, who believe whites are intrinsically superior, all take their share of ridicule. "White men are stronger than black men. Why?" shouts a priest. "Because they have a better god!" comes the well-rehearsed answer. Of course, in his own language one native says to another, while the white sergeant slaps away an insect, "Didn't I tell you white men attract flies?" In one quick scene a native who had been facing Mecca and praying quickly disappears into his hut and reappears wearing a cross just as the priests arrive.

In a commentary on the DVD Annaud says that the movie is a fable based on reality, "how white people behave with natives. Even today it is appalling." The movie is more than this. How people often think about war is appalling; how people get caught up in La Gloire is appalling. Annaud skewers all of it.

The DVD looks very good. The disc contains several extras, in addition to the interview with Annaud. The most noteworthy is the 88-minute film "The Sky Above, the Mud Below" which documents a team of scientists journeying into unexplored parts of New Guinea and finding tribes of people who'd never seen anyone except themselves. Producer Arthur Cohn was responsible for both films. The DVD case also holds a four-page insert with an excellent essay about the film."
Africa and the Colonialists!
Randy Keehn | 07/22/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a great black comedy about the blinders that Europeans wore while living in Africa during World War I. 6 months or so after the outbreak of World War I some French never-do-wells discover that their country is at war with the Germans. As proof of their patriotism they(with the help of uncomprehending African colonials who receive about one day's 'military training') decide to attack a German outpost across the river. What follows is a rout.
The other movie, The Sky Above, The Mud Below is also an enjoyable 'travelogue' of New Guinea over 40 years ago. It won an Academy Award for Best Documentary. What is surprising is that there is some male full frontal nudity in the movie. Evidently when showing the 'natives' it was permissible in those days."
BareOpera | Tampa Bay Florida | 05/07/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)

"I bought this dvd mainly for the bonus movie Sky Above Mud Below. I've been looking for a release of this on dvd for some time. This great documentary should have been the main title of this disc..."