Title Weight - Film Titles
The main-title sequence of a film has become a form of art all to its own. The medium is shorter and in some ways harder to master. Titles are short introductions and closings to films and television shows that list the names of the cast and crew involved in the production. The craft has evolved from merely listing credits to capturing the essence of the film. Creating a distillation of the story by combining both graphic wit and cinematic prowess that honor the intentions of the filmmaker.
Saul Bass - Anatomy of a Murder
Let’s get the obvious out of the way. You can’t talk about the art of the title sequence without mentioning its first real pioneer, Saul Bass. Considered the father of the medium, his work made an indelible mark on the films of the 50s and 60s. He made a name for himself by creating bold film posters and so the transition to motion made perfect sense. A master of graphic minimalism and subtle motion design, Bass redefined the purpose of a film’s opening credits.
Kyle Cooper - SE7EN
A living legend of the medium and master of symbolism, Kyle is today’s Saul. Cooper co-founded the now infamous studio Imaginary Forces in 1996 after a seven-year stint at RGA. He has since gone solo with Prologue Studios. His work for films like Se7en illustrate his graphic design background and typographic rule breaking similar to contemporaries like David Carson. The New York Times once said, “The opening and closing credits were so good, they were almost worth sitting through the film for.” Need I say more?
Jakob Trollbäck - Monsoon Wedding
Jakob Trollbäck is the founder and creative director of New York-based creative studio Trollbäck + Company. The Swedish self-taught designer is an acknowledged industry leader in branding and motion graphics design, best known for his clean, consistent and concept-driven design. The studio’s work is elegant and concise. Monsoon Wedding is no exception; with its simple animated line-work and vivid colors it sets the tone for the rest of the film. Perfection!
Terry Gilliam - Monty Python’s Flying Circus
The only American-born Python, Terry was the principal artist-animator of the surreal cartoons that frequently linked the show’s sketches together, and defined the group’s visual language in other media. Absurd Victorian cutouts that bounced around the screen uttering indiscernible phrases. His distinctive cut and paste style has become the trend of late in music videos for bands like The Hours, commercials for companies like Guinness and in television titles for shows like Desperate Housewives and Carnivale. Every once in a while someone comes along and creates something “completely different.” Raise your grails!
Gareth Smith - Thank You For Smoking
How could something so bad look so good? This sequence is a celebration or mockery of cigarette packaging and its power to disguise the truth. Cigarettes presented like candy is a perfect metaphor for the film.
Olivier Kuntzel + Florence Deygas - Catch me if you can
Kuntzel and Deygas joined forces in 1990 forming their own studio and have been developing their unique style of illustration and animation ever since. The title sequence for the Spielberg film Catch me if You Can is both nostalgic and fresh at the same time. Based on a the real life story of Frank Abagnale, the animation captures the thrill of chase with jet setter typography and a period color palette.
Sergio Leone - The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Possibly the best spaghetti western ever, iconic in every way from the the Ennio Morricone’s score to all the great one-liners. Marked by a use of incongruous antique fonts and simple transitions of sand and flames. There is a sense-of-humor in every aspect of the film.
Danny Yount - Six Feet Under
Self-taught Emmy winner and creator of possibly the best title sequence of all time for Six Feet Under. The brilliance is in the storytelling. The symbolism of death in the beginning with the hands and the trip down the hallway on the gurney into the light, the shot from within the grave. The integration of the typography is amazing, the text breaks apart when the crow flies through the frame, it follows the rising line embalming fluid and spins when the wheel of the gurney turns abruptly, and all timed with the music composed by Thomas Newman. Take a minute to check out the “making of” at the link below, great story behind the whole process including how they ended up with the tree!
Jared Hess - Napolean Dynamite
GOSH! It’s pretty much my favorite title sequence ever. Hess directed the film and as far as I can tell the intro as well. DIY titles to match a DIY film. Tots, burritos, deviled eggs, UFO Abduction Insurance, TV dinners, throwing stars, vintage carpet, and of course chap stick. Credits in ketchup and mustard, need I say more?
Jean-Pierre Jeunet - Delicattessen
Spoiler alert, don’t read this review if you haven’t watched the film. Delicatessen is set in a post-apocalyptic version of 1950s France where food is in short supply. What do they eat; let’s just say Solient Green. The title sequence is amazing; the camera drifts through all sorts of memorabilia pausing on different items that relate to credit information. For instance, a broken record for the music director and a shirt collar for the costume designer. Even if you’re subtitle challenged you should check this one out. A new meaning to dinner and a movie.