Thursday, February 25, 2010

The Art of the Film Title

The art of the movie title is something that has sadly lost some luster in recent decades. Luckily, Stephen Heller (a former art director at the New York Times) has written a great piece on the importance of title art in old Hollywood - specifically, post-1950's - and the fine collection that Dutch wed designer Christian Annyas has cumulated at his website, The Movie Title Stills Collection. Heller makes a few interesting points on the role of these scripts and sparkles in the glittering moments that lead to the film's opening sequence - some even participating in the opening shot (see "Sunset Blvd."). While the eye of "Vertigo" is still a personal favorite - as well as the deft closing sequence to "Masculin Feminin" (see below) - I'm particularly fascinated by the work of Lotte Reiniger, a German animation artist who - from 1923 to 1926 - hand cut figures out of black cardboard with a pair of scissors, joined the parts, and then proceeded to animate them in order to create an astonishing 250,000 frame-by-frame stills. In the end, it's a refreshing focus on a quite art that speaks volumes to both the viewer and the film, and hopefully a spark to bring back a somewhat lost craft.