23 Things I Know About Opening Credits: Part 2/3
9. Enter the Void (2009) Directed by Gaspar Noé
Ceaseless sensory surplus that forgoes readability for something far more effective, both as a gateway into Enter the Void's milieu and more immediately as a jarring contrast to the languid first scene.
Supposedly Truman Capote often read 'In Cold Blood' cover to cover in one sitting "as if I didn't write it", and I think I might watch Void's opening credit sequence every month if I was Gaspar Noe. Typographers already do. It's their Porn Hub.
10. The Innocents (1961) Directed by Jack Clayton
Henry James' Turn of the Screw...but with a little (more) sex in it...
First of all, I love when people fuck with the 20th Century Fox fanfare. Pissing on the hallowed theme in the key of B is the foundation upon which great credit sequences are built (see White Men Can't Jump). The pre-fanfare 40 second acapella here is disquieting enough but when it then bleeds onto the logo with the fanfare still MIA, you know Jack Clayton has designs on your emotional wellbeing.
We're then shown some clasped, fidgety hands in high-contrast close-up as the credits roll right of frame. Watch them with the sound down and it's a hellish medley of hand gestures revisiting all your favourite childhood traumas, like some sort of nightmare It's A Wonderful Life. Slapsies! Thumbie War!! Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter!!! Sound up and it's a plea about never meaning to hurt the children (so still a bit Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter). All very effective in laying the land for a film that relies purely on cinema technique rather than narrative arc/specific plot points to achieve it's mood of mounting paranoia, so that like Deborah Kerr's Miss Giddens, we are never too certain whether what we see and hear is real or a fable of our fevered imagination.
11. (地獄, "Hell") (1960) Directed by Nobuo Nakagawa
Hit and run morality tale where everyone dies and goes to Hell in a hamper. More twists than Chubby Checker driving down Forcella Lavardet, but that's tangential. Right now we're checking out credit sequences and Nakagawa, one of cinema's great stylists, isn't one to pass up on a free swing like this. Jigoku's is executed with the sort of moxy that's all over 60's Japanese New Wave cinema, though not until Nakagawa set them off. Forget it's other offerings for a second, just on colour palette alone his Hell is further evidence that Bill Hicks may have called it right 'surfin' on the lake of fire'.
12. Nashville (1975) Directed by Robert Altman
I love Altman. His going left a gap that for all PTA's well-intended homages, nobody has gotten close to filling. Nashville is a terrifically seedy film and there is no more fitting way to introduce Robert Altman's genre bending, posse cut than this ruckus here. A pitch perfect runback of the old K-Tel Records rah-rah commercials, complete with one of the original voices of K-Tel, Johnny Grant.
13. Mon Oncle (1958) Directed by Jacques Tati
I initially considered the Jungle Fever credits to represent this sort of thing and in my mind's eye they were a shoe-in. I mean, a (mediocre) Stevie song beats an incessant drill, right? Evidently not. Jungle Fever's had dated a tad, the drifting street-sign motion a little twee, the slow-mo city scenes a little raggedy. Mon Oncle, au contraire...
First saw Mon Oncle in a cinema sat directly behind two boisterous lads who spent the 10 minutes leading up to the credits doing above average Marx Brothers impersonations (Chico impersonator was particularly good: "At'sa no black eye. At'sa birthmark"). A good time was being had by all...until their schtick spilled over onto these credits. Audience turned fast. Giddy to gnarly. Bang! Just like that.
Those boys should have known better too: Tati always did favour the early onslaught, prematurely revealing his hand before using viewer complacency against them in subsequent nuanced dissections. In Mon Oncle - Tati's first colour film - the credits cast in architectural detail immediately reveal the dichotomy of automated modern living and traditional society. Never have two parallel worlds been realised so expertly and briskly in both sight and sound.
14. Desperate Living (1977) Directed by John Waters
Although it's The One Without Divine, Desperate Living is a filth fest. Maybe Waters' filthiest fest. Just when you think it can't go any lower, like the New York Knicks, it somehow burrows even deeper....a baby in a fridge, sex-change op gone wrong, cannibalism, high-heel shoe eyeball gouging, cockroach brunch, suffocation by dog food, a rabies rampage and self-castration with scissors...and it all started off so civilised too. Waters showing himself to be quite the dinner host...
As with The Innocents' opening, this utilizes the entire frame to striking effect, although its the POV element that's the real pay-off. Hollywood has dined out on the recycled crumbs of this sequence, but here's the OG.
15. Taxi Driver (1976) Directed by Martin Scorsese
For no good reason, until I was about 14-15, I thought Taxi Driver was a 'knife and knicker' film. Some no-budget early Scorsese that he'd rather have buried. Then I watched it and well well, well-o-well... it's his best work. I was fairly sure of that at 15 and I'm completely convinced now. Not a false step anywhere (ok, maybe they could have squeezed more juice out of that street drummer ) and it couldn't fail with a welcome like this one: straight into the New York as hell motif, neon on mist, Tom Scott and those Kasper Hauser eyes. Amen.
*don't ask why I had knife and knicker expectations of any film at 14-15. That's a whole other blog post.