Anne is technically on hiatus through May putting super-heroic effort into a writing proposal, but will contribute brief submissions to Hit Me With Your Best Shot because she never started a project she didn’t complete, except for maybe a few papers in college.
Today for Hit Me With Your Best Shot, I’d like to talk about title sequences; specifically, Saul Bass title sequences. Since last week was Saul Bass’s 93rd birthday (commemorated by a beautiful Google doodle), I think it’s only fitting. Obviously, Saul Bass did not design the title sequence for The Talented Mr. Ripley, but anyone who knows his work will find this opening very familiar.
The shot is simple but effective: jagged internal frames cut through a black screen, gradually revealing a single shot circling the darkly-lit Matt Damon. This title sequence stylishly introduces a major theme of the film – Tom Ripley’s fractured identity – while paying homage to the psychological thrillers before it. The two films that immediately come to mind are The Big Knife, which starts with the image of a man being broken apart, and The Man With The Golden Arm, which famously inserts white lines like needles into the frame. (For a full list of Saul Bass title sequences, click here.)
The Big Knife
The Man With The Golden Arm
Though The Big Knife is a late noir and The Man With The Golden Arm is a film about addiction, both share with The Talented Mr. Ripley a main character torn between his ugly past and his hopes for the future. In The Big Knife, actor Charles Castle tries to break free from the corrupt Hollywood studio that owns his career. In The Man With The Golden Arm, Frank Machine battles his addiction and criminal record and tries to hold onto the woman he loves. And in The Talented Mr. Ripley, Tom Ripley tries, through whatever extreme means necessary, to pull himself out of his lower-class life. In each film, the tone and themes for the movie are laid bare for the audience before the first line is even spoken. That is the power of a great title sequence.