These are 3 title sequences that stood out to me at various life stages.
3 Times In My Life
Goldfinger: This is the sequence that made an impact on me as a kid. I can vividly remember my parents showing this to me and telling me to pay attention. My dad was a graphic designer and had a lot of appreciation for these things. It was interesting analysing this one and going into several behind-the-scenes articles. Here was an interesting quote:
"Brownjohn loaded a set of slides into a projector, darkened the lights, removed his shirt, and stepped in front of the projector's beam. As the slide images and text reflected onto his stomach he danced, saying, "It'll be just like this, except we'll use a pretty girl!" Broccoli and Saltzman saw the potential and Brownjohn was given free rein."
I think this quote perfectly sums up why this sequence is so iconic: the simplicity of the idea. The concept is compelling and innovative for the time. Not only is the idea original, but is executed with a lot of precision. They easily could have just projected some cool textures or sloppily placed imagery, but they really took the time (3 weeks as told) to get the shots lined up in a way that considers not only design layout principles, but also how they interact with the human body. Some of the imagery flows so well with the curvature of the model that you would think they were placed by a heavily experienced tattoo artist. There isn't much to say about this sequence that hasn't already been said, but here are some of my key takeaways as a designer:
Great bookends with the use of both the hand as well as the same shot being projected onto the hand. The way the man gets up from the grass and is framed perfectly on the model's leg and knee is absolutely jaw-dropping. Not only is the composition of the shot and title text great, but there is also some beautiful composition of the shots framed on the models (See additional layout graphs). Music track is completely iconic, sets the tone for the movie perfectly. The golf ball going into the hole via the framing on the arm and breasts is very clever, I do wonder how much of this was dreamt up in the concept phase, and which shots were happy accidents. In the shot introducing sean connery I also love how the darkness in the projected image creates a small glow outlining the model's face (see second image).
Fight the power: This title sequence made a big impact on me when I was in college. I took a film class and it was the first time I had seen a title sequence that was fueled on the central element of "emotion". This sequence isn't necessarily flashy in its design, but hits your directly over the head by setting a strong tone for the movie. It perfectly sets up the ride you are about to go on in Bed Stuy. Here are some of my notes made while watching the sequence:
3 Key Ingredients: Spike Lee's direction, Rosie Perez's dancing, and the use of Public Enemy in the soundtrack. Starts with quiet jazz, before breaking out into Public Enemy's "Fight the Power". This quiet to loud transition is reflective of the rapid escalation shown in the film. Airplanes cut in and out washing over the soundtrack, another emotionally tied audio cue. As the video continues the flash between the regular lighting and the monochromatic red becomes more frequent further reflecting the escalation and tone of the film. Rose perez is always framed orthographically in her dancing which is very eyecatching and works well with the architectural background in most shots. There is also some very sharp cutting with her choreography as the shots match up between the different "scenes". Some extreme close-ups highlight the emotion in her as she is dancing. While the typography, fashion, and soundtrack is all very dated, I think that it has incredible historical significance as an archive of the culture of that time. There's also something in this sequence that seems quite personal to Spike Lee, I think it's a great example of not only great title design, but an excellent expression of the director.
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: I am ashamed to say that seeing this movie in my mid-twenties is when I first became aware of Saul Bass. I think the sequence is effective at capturing the tone of the movie and has a lot of nice tricks keeping with the movie's genre of comedy. Mad World is filmed in 70mm so they were dealing with a very narrow and very wide composition. Most things are centered vertically and move horizontally through the center box of the thirds grid. What I love about this sequence is how every transition and credit is flipped as a gag. For sound there is a musical gag, for the actors each character is trying to assert their name to the top of the list (a reference from the film), and the director is left trampled at the end of the sequence. This movie is exhausting at a near 4 hour runtime and the title sequence reflects this length in being somewhere around the 4 minute mark in length. Another thing that sticks out with this sequence is the multiple uses of the globe. Not only in how it's interacted with, but also how it's personified as other objects such as a wheel, an egg, or a grenade ready to explode. Another thing to note about this is that there are alot of animation principles to learn from this sequence. From the way movement is shown to the strong sound design enforcing the frame animation. For me this is Saul Bass' crowning achievement in title design, and to put this much effort into a screwball comedy film is a testament to the passion he had for his craft.