Gentlemen, start your engines!
While not one of designer Saul Bass’s more famous title sequences (see Psycho or North by Northwest), the full throttle intro to director John Frankenheimer’s Formula One flick Grand Prix offers something a little different. This masterfully assembled montage of pre-race preparation features crisply aligned type and meiotic split-screens set to a soundtrack of revving motors and beating hearts. You can practically smell the burning rubber and taste the exhaust. Accompanied by the ever-intensifying roar of Gordon Daniel’s Oscar-winning sound design, Bass utilizes sporadic slow motion and almost imperceptible looping to stretch the final few seconds before the green flag drops into an eternity of tension.
Author Pat Kirkham and Saul Bass on the opening titles for Grand Prix, from Saul Bass: A Life in Film and Design (p. 406).
"The use of split-screen and multiple images was novel in mainstream US movies in 1966. Asked about them a few years later, Saul raised criticisms similar to those voiced by others who considered the excesses of multiple imagery in the late 1960s and early 1970s as representative of a trend to put “medium” before “message”:
“The point is, it’s a device, and as far as I’m concerned I’ll never use it again - if it actually cries out for it, I’ll use it but as a device it’s lost its currency, because, later on, it was, unfortunately, used meaninglessly. It’s the kind of thing that grows up without ever having a youth and there’s no opportunity to explore it. On Grand Prix I took the multiple image …. and carried it down the line quite a way. I think it is terrific at expressing muchness, but I suspect it’s not capable of expressing deep feeling or contemplative...”
Visual Consultant; Montages by: Saul Bass
Titles by: Saul Bass, Elaine Bass
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SAUL BASS: A LIFE IN FILM AND DESIGN
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