Monday, June 8, 2009

Saul Bass - look what you started!

In 1955 I saw the movie The Man With The Golden Arm. Except for braless Kim Novak, the most memorable thing about the movie (for me) was the roll of movie credits at the beginning of the film. (See video above) It was staggeringly different from the conventional presentation of credits. I noted that the person responsible for these graphics was a man called Saul Bass. What will he do next, I wondered.
Shortly after that I read a small article in the cinema section of Time magazine on Sual Bass and his work for this movie. It was full of praise for the originality and quality of the movie credits roll.
I would never have guessed that he had started a trend that would grow and grow until today the presentation of movie credits is a production of its own, separate and apart from the movie, sometimes detracting from same.
The people who make these designs won't agree with that statement, but they are the ones holding the tiger by the tail, not me, and they can't always see what they are doing.
Nina Saxon, a truly talented maker of these title sequences, has said about them: "It's about storytelling. The title sequence should feel integral to the movie, like something that was written into the script to begin with. If it feels disconnected, I don't think it's a success, even though it may be very elaborate and wonderful on its own."
Well, this is thr problem with many of these title sequences. Sometimes the words are illegible, or distorted. Other times they are presented between visuals and snippets of conversation among the movie's characters; this leaves one with the task of deciding which is more important at the moment: who made this movie or what the story is about.
Some might call this simple multi-tasking. I call it divided attention which is not what one should have when giving a close reading to a work of art.
Now I see a new element being added: the use of music, both instrumental and vocal, mixed with the credits and snatches of the story.
This becomes especially annoying when the vocals are not by singers but from moaners, groaners, screamers, shouters, criers, or hummers.
Enough already. Bring back the clean, no-nonsense, straight forward list of stars (one or two frames) and makers (five or six frames). And don't forget THE END.
I miss that too.

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