Sunday, June 13, 2010



I think one of the most underrated aspects of a film is the title screen. It is often the first thing we see in a film and goes a long way in forming our first impressions of what we are about to see. But not always.

In Apichatpong Weerasethakul's 2002 release, สุดเสน่หา (Blissfully Yours), the title and opening credits are not shown until an astonishing 45 minutes into the film. In his next film, 2004's unforgettable สัตว์ประหลาด (Tropical Malady), the titles show up a little sooner, after about 9 minutes or so. And then, there they are: simple white letters on screen in the most subtle way, reminding you that you are in fact watching a movie.

Until the '70's most films only had opening credits. Closing credits came after. Citizen Kane was notable for showing only the title and no credits whatsoever. Francis Ford Coppola also forewent titles in 1979's Apocalypse Now: the film's title did not appear until late in the film as graffiti.

Some of my favorite opening titles are those by Rainer Werner Fassbinder. His 1979 masterpiece, Die Ehe Der Maria Braun, uses red scripted letters, flashing and flickering, that eventually fill the screen. 1982's Die Sehnsucht Der Veronika Voss (my personal favorite of his) is equally gorgeous- with shadowy letters slowly fading, scrolling in and out diagonally across the screen.

Jean-Luc Godard is a master of titles, often using them throughout his films. Pierrot Le Fou's opening titles appear alphabetically, letter by letter. His 1967 film, Week-End, has my favorite titles of his. The opening titles tell us: "Un Film Égaré dans le Cosmos (A Film Adrift in the Cosmos)" and "Un Film Trouvé á la Ferraille (A Film Found on a Scrap-Heap)." The ending is just as beguiling, declaring: "Fin dé Cinema (The End of Cinema)." Godard is still using titles, as in his latest, Film Socialisme, which is sadly said to be his last. If this is true, then his final words to the world through cinema are "No Comment."

The images below are not the necessarily the greatest opening titles, but they are all very beautiful to me and represent each film perfectly.

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