Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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The Titlemaster of Gozer

Title sequences are in some ways a lost art. Every once and a while a film comes along with impressive credits, but the current trend is to place all of the credits at the end of the film. While there are certainly many benefits to this practice, I also feel that title sequences could be used very effectively to establish the tone of the film to follow.

With most if not all credits at the beginning of the film, it was prudent to utilize their screen time to the service of the film; these little often abstract pieces would at times turn into an art unto themselves. Subject matter from a film can be introduced in an unorthodox manner, and the score of the film would often have a chance to establish the ambience of the film itself. The score was often the voice of the film, and so it was advantageous for the composer to be able to establish their musical approach even before the story begins.

Few designers had quite the flair for it than Saul Bass. He had a special ability to take various shapes and images that he would draw from the film and convert them into an encapsulation of the whole... without once using an image from the film itself. These little mini-films is that they have entertainment value of their own, from the stately formalism of the depiction of the corruption of Rome for Spartacus, the whirling spirals in Vertigo, the eerie facial distortions of Seconds or layers of reflections in Cape Fear, they all pose little riddles of their own.
"My initial thoughts about what a title can do was to set mood and the prime underlying core of the film's story, to express the story in some metaphorical way. I saw the title as a way of conditioning the audience, so that when the film actually began, viewers would already have an emotional resonance with it."
- Saul Bass
My recent viewing of The Man with the Golden Arm sent me looking for some of his work. As title sequences are designed to put you into the mood to see the film which follows, I made a mental note to revisit several of these films as I perused them.

Of course, another element of the title sequence was the music, and these selections contain work by some of the best film composers ever. If these preludes are indeed involving, it is as much because of the music as it is because of the design work. As the visual element is designed to reflect aspects of the film that is to follow, so does the main title music, whether it is the kaleidescopic fandango Benny Herrmann came up with for North by Northwest, or Jerry Goldsmith's unsettling organ-driven piece for Seconds, or the wrenching theme for the title character in Spartacus heard for the first time pounded out on tympani after the opening cacaphony of brass and percussion. Interestingly, Elmer Bernstein shows up quite a few times but never original music for the same director; Cape Fear is, of course, an adaptation of Herrmann's score for the original J. Lee Thompson film.

For Otto Preminger:

The Man with the Golden Arm - Music by Elmer Bernstein

Anatomy of a Murder - Music by Duke Ellington

Bonjour Triste - Music by Georges Auric

Exodus - Music by Ernest Gold

For Stanley Kubrick:

Spartacus - Music by Alex North

For Mark Robson:

Nine Hours to Rama - Music by Malcolm Arnold

For Alfred Hitchcock:

Vertigo - Music by Bernard Herrmann

Psycho - Music by Bernard Herrmann

North by Northwest - Music by Bernard Herrmann

For Edward Dymtryk:

A Walk on the Wild Side - Music by Elmer Bernstein

The Human Factor - Music by Ennio Morricone

For John Frankenheimer:

Seconds - Music by Jerry Goldsmith

For Martin Scorsese:

Cape Fear - Music by Bernard Herrmann; Adapted by Elmer Bernstein

Age of Innocence - Music by Elmer Bernstein

Casino - Music from Contempt by Georges Delerue

Hmmm... On a completely unrelated note, Skype is a whole lot of fun.
Tags: alex north, alfred hitchcock, bernard herrmann, cinema, elmer bernstein, film music, jazz, jerry goldsmith, movie moments, saul & elaine bass, stanley kubrick, titles
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