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Storyboards for the opening sequence of West Side Story (1961, dir. Robert Wise & Jerome Robbins) Sketches by Saul & Elaine Bass
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L’Affiche – Saul Bass

You’ve never met Saul Bass, but you know him. He is everywhere. He designed the logos of your favourite cereal (Quaker), the phone you use (At&T), the camera you have (Minolta), but most importantly the posters of the films you love. The Bass mid-century minimalist aesthetic is the face of timeless classics such as Vertigo, The Anatomy of a Murder, The Man with the Golden Arm, West Side Story, The Shining, and countless more. With a career that spanned over forty years Saul Bass was a graphic design innovator who moved film posters up the hierarchy from commercial promotional tool to a collectable print based art. In print, his work was the nexus point between metaphor and abstraction. Relying heavily on symbolic references, his visual style of fragmentation and colour blocking proposed the film’s mood, and in doing so provided it with a subliminal and additional identity.

The spinning white octagonal lines contrasting the orange of Vertigo prepare us for a decent into madness. The blood red background and imposing black font in West Side Story propose the weight of urban oppression, and mirror the scale of ghetto tenements. My choice is the cheeky use of a drawn shade to convey the playful folly of Love in the Afternoon. Not limited to movie posters alone, Bass further set the bar with his revolutionary approach to title sequences, namely the cutting maze-like credits in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. Over 50 films including Around the World in 80 days and The Human Factor are adorned with a visual style that echoes his print work and creates a cohesive aesthetic support to the film. His style was the catalyst for a modern approach to union between visual art and cinema, and has since become a industry standard as well as a fundamental inspiration.

- Christina Stimpson

http://www.soundonsight.org/l%e2%80%99affiche-%e2%80%93-saul-bass/
Tags: 1961 film, graphics, prologue, saul bass
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