1766 Soul Bass Vertigo

Saul Bass was the designer responsible numerous classic title sequences and film posters.

Cinematek honours Saul Bass: from 'Casino' to 'Vertigo'

Niels Ruëll

For years, the opening and closing credits of a film were just a boring, obligatory piece. And then Saul Bass got involved. His modern, tightly styled and fantastically rhythmic works of art proved that title sequences can be a joy rather than a burden.

Even those who have never heard of Saul Bass have already enjoyed his work. He was responsible for the dizzying spirals in Kim Novak's red eye that sucked poor James Stewart into the pre-titles of Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. No less iconic are the vertical and horizontal lines that, together with Bernard Herrmann's aggressive strings, announce that Psycho will become a dissonant nightmare for Janet Leigh and the viewer. The virtuoso graphic designer also claimed to have visually invented the infamous shower scene but Hitchcock denied this.

Hitchcock was not the only one to appreciate Bass' gift for elaborate but graphically powerful ideas. Stanley Kubrick (Spartacus), John Frankenheimer (Seconds), Martin Scorsese (The Age of Innocence, Cape Fear, Casino), Otto Preminger (The Man with the Golden Arm) were also Saul fans and hired him for posters, title design and visual advice.

After his death, his work was eagerly copied. Mad Men, for example, the popular TV series about the New York advertising industry in the 1960s, is one big homage to Bass. After the Second World War, Bass made a name for himself in the advertising industry, drawing logos for Minolta, Warner, AT&T and Continental Airlines, among others, that have lasted for years, but his heart was with film and he even tried film directing a few times.

With Elaine Makatura Bass, his wife and creative support, he made Why Man Creates, an essayistic short film that won an Oscar. In 1974, the only feature film followed: cult classic Phase IV. This ecological SF parable about ants outsmarting mankind, presented in a sleek graphic style, is the starting point of a Saul Bass programme in Cinematek. All the titles mentioned above will be screened. Be on time or you will have missed the best.

10/9 > 17/10, Cinematek, www.cinematek.be

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