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Daily Dose #15: Lissajous Figures (Title Design Sequence from Vertigo)


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#1 Rejana Raj

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 09:21 AM

1.) The title of this film began with the eye and face shots of a woman. Even now, I am confused that the woman who appeared in the title sequence was Kim Novak as I thought that it was some other woman. By seeing the spiral images twirling on and on, one can make out that this film will be a psychological thriller with heart racing background score.

2.) I believe that it is the spiral image (or the Lissajous figures) which played the important part in the opening sequence. It is that this moving image captures our attention and makes one believe in his/her delirium tremens which happens within their minds. This sequence was indeed successful in conveying the effect.

3.) Without the music of Mr. Hermann and the visual effects of Mr. Bass, I believed that this film would have been a dry desert. It is that as it seems that Mr.Hitchcock knew how to choose his collaborators at the right place and at the right time.

https://sgtr.files.w.../12/vertigo.gif

#2 dsanders

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Posted 07 August 2017 - 04:48 AM

Daily Dose #15: Lissajous Figures, Title Design Sequence of Vertigo (1954)

 

I really like the subject of this Daily Dose. It’s a very creative assignment to focus on a title sequence to extract the meaning from it. I looked at the link to the Saul Bass website and was surprised by the familiarity I had with the posters and their look. It’s a signature design style that in my mind really stands in for edgy, new, sophisticated works of art. I have seen the style almost more on the covers of paperbacks than on movie posters. I think of James Baldwin, Nelson Algren, Hubert Selby and others, a moderness that really played in the heyday of the 60’s and continues to feel modern.

 

I love that reduction down to very simple geometric shapes, like jazz, modern art and poetry, the short stories of Hemingway, or Carver. I really like the poster for The Magnificent Seven, a favorite movie of mine, but I don’t remember ever seeing this one, five hash marks with a line through, and two below, in the bright red heavy brush strokes of Japanese Shodo, on a white background. It says so much, so simply.

 

That said, I have mixed feelings about Vertigo in general, some of it present in this title sequence. I too saw it when I was younger, and didn’t care for it that much. I have seen it several times more recently, and though I find it growing on me, and I do love the San Francisco, Northern California 50s travelogue of it, I’m with Dr. Gehring when he says, I don’t even think it’s the best Hitchcock, let alone the best movie of all time. I don’t get how it replaces Citizen Kane. But I will admit it is an interesting film and fertile ground for discussion and repeated viewings.

 

I find the computer graphics of the title sequence kind of hokey and artificial. They remind me of that kid’s art tool, the Spirograph, some of us used to make interesting mathematical art shapes. And the dream sequence later on, with the tinted, disembodied James Stewart head, and the funky animation of flowers, not convincing or effective.

 

I do like the Bernard Hermann score, which reminds me of Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade, with its impression of the rising and falling of the ocean swell in Sinbad’s voyages by crescendo and decrescendo, and the gentle sway of Herman’s score creating a dream-like vertigo, like the car sequence Marty describes.



#3 MagdaK83

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 02:31 PM

I love this kind of opening! This is a classic one! I think this is the best way o open a psychological thriller! The eyes, the spiral, the music makes your mind go crazy! There's a lot of mystery here!


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#4 Suj

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 11:33 AM

1. We know the film will be about a woman, love, vertigo from the title. Perhaps less about the obsession that James Stewart will feel towards Novak.

 

2. The most powerful image is when we see the spiral which appears soon after the title Vertigo appears in the eye. It draws you in and makes you feel quite queasy and mesmerised at the same time!

 

3. The dramatic repetitive music echoes the repetitive turning of the spiral and reminded me a bit of the song "The windmills of your mind" or in French of "les moulins de mon coeur" in its endless repetitive sound. A light-hearted score would not have been as effective in making the audience feel uneasy and ready for the thrills to come.



#5 Firesidetartan

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Posted 06 August 2017 - 08:56 AM

Thanks to the contributor who mentioned the spirograph - I remembered seeing images like this as a kid when I saw the opening credit sequence of "Vertigo" & found the images fascinating. Now I remember my own experience of that little machine. Even so, the opening sequence, both visually and musically - and also together - set a tone of something stressful for the action to come.

 

Moving beyond the opening sequence, "Vertigo" is a movie of "high anxiety" - literally. This is where Hitchcock moves beyond the outward experience of the cliffhanger to the inward one. I haven't yet found when he first used the motif of someone hanging from a great height, but it ends with death in "Saboteur" (1942) There's one in "Rear Window" (1954) where the character falls and is injured. Yet another in "To Catch a Thief" (1955) when again, the evil-doer hangs from a roof. How many other of Hitchcock's movies have such a cliffhanger? What was their chronological sequence? Just another fascinating fact to research about H! 

 

"Vertigo" of 1958 takes a huge step beyond the external experience of the cliffhanger to the internal experience of it - moving into the effect on the psyche of the individual who was hanging over the "cliff." The movie starts with the cliffhanger instead of ending with it and deals several times with the most likely effect of such a predicament - i.e. death. Interestingly, the protagonist in "Vertigo" is not only experiencing the damaging effect on his psyche of having hung off a "cliff," but also seeing the experience from the outside as well, several times. Also interestingly, in "North By Northwest" (1959) H. returns to the concluding cliffhanger, but makes a very positive transition from the horror to happiness. A delightful resolution - but as in "Vertigo," leaving unanswered the question: how did the character get out of the predicament s/he was in? Of course, it's a film, a story; and in effect it doesn't matter because film moves on fast and the director ensures his focus is the audience's focus, at least for the first viewing. However, in "Vertigo," an interesting unanswered question is how Scottie got himself out of his own predicament at the start of the movie! It leaves a lot for the imagination to come up with after the movie ends. 

 

My further reading tells me that an alternative ending was made for this movie - see https://en.wikipedia...i/Vertigo_(film) - which reflected the concerns of the censors of the time - they didn't want viewers to come away thinking that someone could get away with murder. 



#6 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 08:27 AM

1.  Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.  

 

As someone who has experienced vertigo, the changes in the spirals that seemingly are coming towards me or moving away gives me a very real feeling of falling.  As many times as I've seen this film, it's surprising that I've not focused on that feeling before now.  Maybe I have and I just don't remember it.  The jarring music also seems to increase in volume and then fade slightly, until the bass wind section comes in with a thud.  Mystery and some sort of violence are what I expect to see after this opening.

 

2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The most powerful image of that opening was the credit, "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock".  It seems to abruptly come straight out of the woman's eye.  The other credits have been shown, and this stands out as it is all by itself.  The eye is in a blood red wash of light.  Very cool.

 

3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

OMG, these guys are perfect together!  Pure genius.  The music and video seem to weave in and out, not exactly in cadence, but off just enough to be interesting.  It's similar to when you hear an impromptu jazz improvisation.  It is supposed to work you up, not send you sleep.

 

I honestly cannot imagine any other composer doing these titles.  Maybe Tiomkin could do something close, but he's not as innovative as Hermann.  Plus, with Tiomkin, I'd still have High Noon in my head.

In reference to your #3 response, I completely agree!!  The music and the visual effects work perfectly, circling and weaving in and out.  Pure genius!!



#7 Bgeorgeteacher

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Posted 05 August 2017 - 08:25 AM

The single most powerful image in the title sequence of Vertigo for me has to be at the beginning when the camera focuses on the single eye (clearly, there is some level of panic in those eyes), the entire frame of the eye turns red, and that panicked expression briefly becomes one of terror.  Wow!!  I'm frightened before the film even starts.  



#8 SherriW

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 10:42 PM

  1. Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

Something unsettling.

 

2.  In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The opening sequence of the eyes. They look side to side as if a bit frightened or confused.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

The music and the graphics work well together. The horns give a sense of danger.



#9 Tiger1318

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Posted 03 August 2017 - 06:27 PM

Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

From the opening sequence and the musical score on this and the title of course, the one major thing that I think this could be about is heights or something to do with heights.  That or this could be about someone who's life is spinning out of control.  The music makes it sound like someone or something is "dizzying" because of the constant repeats in the music in the higher register of the instruments with the occasionally grounding of the loud chords in the lower registered instruments. 



#10 pumatamer

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Posted 02 August 2017 - 02:51 PM

Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. I automatically feel that the film will be a darker themed film. That there will be danger, suspense, confusion, and I can't wait to dive right in. 

 

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer. I think the woven, green figure eight image is the most powerful because at first I can't tell if it is a yin and yang symbol, or a circle, if it is a solid green image, until it gets closer to the screen. As it gets closer, we see that it is in fact a woven figure eight image that at times can look like sickle curved blades and this just adds to the confusion. We aren't sure what we are seeing, as the image gets closer then the view gets clearer but also scarier. 

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score? I can't even imagine this film with Herrmann's score. It is at times very creepy and other times very moving and tear-jerking good. The music and it's sinister quality just add to these confusing and powerful images in the opening sequence. 



#11 iceiceblondie

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 10:55 PM

The opening titles are communicating that this is not going to be a straightforward film. There will be questioning of reality on both our part and the characters' parts. It's meant to put us on edge, and it definitely works. The score helps immensely in this area as well. I thought the most powerful image was the word vertigo coming from the woman's eye. Is the woman experiencing vertigo or the cause of it? We aren't sure yet.



#12 Reegstar

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 10:02 PM

1.  Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience.  

 

As someone who has experienced vertigo, the changes in the spirals that seemingly are coming towards me or moving away gives me a very real feeling of falling.  As many times as I've seen this film, it's surprising that I've not focused on that feeling before now.  Maybe I have and I just don't remember it.  The jarring music also seems to increase in volume and then fade slightly, until the bass wind section comes in with a thud.  Mystery and some sort of violence are what I expect to see after this opening.

 

2. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The most powerful image of that opening was the credit, "Directed by Alfred Hitchcock".  It seems to abruptly come straight out of the woman's eye.  The other credits have been shown, and this stands out as it is all by itself.  The eye is in a blood red wash of light.  Very cool.

 

3. How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

OMG, these guys are perfect together!  Pure genius.  The music and video seem to weave in and out, not exactly in cadence, but off just enough to be interesting.  It's similar to when you hear an impromptu jazz improvisation.  It is supposed to work you up, not send you sleep.

 

I honestly cannot imagine any other composer doing these titles.  Maybe Tiomkin could do something close, but he's not as innovative as Hermann.  Plus, with Tiomkin, I'd still have High Noon in my head.



#13 Mad4Film

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 08:29 PM

From these opening credits, with the view of a woman, then close-up of her eye, then going into the surreal look with the wash of red color, the "shocked" look in her eye, and then the spirals coming from it, combined with the haunting, mesmerizing score, I would think this is a movie about a fearful woman who is haunted or psychotic and undergoes hypnosis or has hallucinations.

 

The single most powerful image for me is when the eye (already colored red) opens to look "shocked" and then the spirals start coming from it.  I can't seem to get that image out of my head -- those spirals coming out of the eye (with that hypnotic, spiraling music playing)!!

 

The images and music are perfectly coordinated.  They are both edgy, uneasy, creepy, menacing, haunting, and mesmerizing!  I can't imagine this sequence working without the two working together.

 

Note:  After the spirals, when the next images appear, does anyone else think about the Spirograph they played with as a kid?  Those images actually reduce the effect for me (away from creepy, menacing, and fearful) because I enjoyed drawing and coloring with that Spirograph and it wasn't the least bit scary.  When they move away from the circular Spirograph-looking designs to the more irregularly shaped designs, combined with Herrmann's brilliant score, it turns more creepy and haunting again.

 

 

To add on, I actually interpreted it as the woman being manipulative and causing fear in others using hypnosis rather than her being the fearful one. 



#14 filmcat

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 04:57 AM

I just went through and read what other people wrote on this Daily Dose and I have to comment on Popcorn97's post.  There is a clip from "Torn Curtain" both with and without Bernard Herrmann's score.  WHY did Hitchcock choose to go without the score?  The scene is powerful either way, but so much more so with the incredible score!  What do other people think?



#15 filmcat

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Posted 31 July 2017 - 04:21 AM

From these opening credits, with the view of a woman, then close-up of her eye, then going into the surreal look with the wash of red color, the "shocked" look in her eye, and then the spirals coming from it, combined with the haunting, mesmerizing score, I would think this is a movie about a fearful woman who is haunted or psychotic and undergoes hypnosis or has hallucinations.

 

The single most powerful image for me is when the eye (already colored red) opens to look "shocked" and then the spirals start coming from it.  I can't seem to get that image out of my head -- those spirals coming out of the eye (with that hypnotic, spiraling music playing)!!

 

The images and music are perfectly coordinated.  They are both edgy, uneasy, creepy, menacing, haunting, and mesmerizing!  I can't imagine this sequence working without the two working together.

 

Note:  After the spirals, when the next images appear, does anyone else think about the Spirograph they played with as a kid?  Those images actually reduce the effect for me (away from creepy, menacing, and fearful) because I enjoyed drawing and coloring with that Spirograph and it wasn't the least bit scary.  When they move away from the circular Spirograph-looking designs to the more irregularly shaped designs, combined with Herrmann's brilliant score, it turns more creepy and haunting again.



#16 cropel

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 10:30 PM

1. From just the title credits alone- combined with music and visuals- one would think this film is going to be a thriller- eyes, lips, a beautiful woman's eyes looking nervously- that probably has to do with psychological manifestations- the title "Vertigo" is a condition and the spirals support that. The mood and atmosphere are "spiraling out of control" or "weaving a web of deception"

 

2. Woman's eye and the film title growing out of it. The eyes appear to widen (a look of fear perhaps?) and the title comes right out of them in an all encompassing way.

 

3. The music is so calming- save for the heavy BRAAAHHHHHs that come up. This works well with the spirals and title designs- very good timing on them together. This would not be as effective with different music (try inserting Benny Hill theme.. ha ha!), as the Herrmann score puts you at such unease that you know things are going to be uncomfortable in this movie.



#17 FilmFan39

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Posted 30 July 2017 - 10:06 PM

1. From the opening title sequence one would think this movie was about obecession with the close ups of the woman face and madness with the spirals swirling out of control.

 

2. The close up of the woman's face as it focuses in on the eye with the spiral. It shows obsessive attention to detail to the point of madness.

 

3. Saul Basses Images and Bernard Hermann's work seemlessly to create an atmosphere of uncertainty in what's really going on and what we are really going to see.



#18 karenod1

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 07:51 PM

Daily Dose #15 Vertigo. 

 

1.  From just the credits, I am expecting a psychological thriller, a mystery, a mind game of a movie. Something that will make my heart pound.

 

2.  For me the single most powerful image in the credits is the initial image of the woman's eye and seeing a spiral emerge from the pupil....It sends the message of "psychological chaos)

 

3.  I think the score works to make the credits seem more suspenseful....more indicative that the audience is in for a mystery ride. I am a firm believer in music creating mood. I teach a class to children in acting based on the Ellis Island experience...one of the exercises I developed with them is having them compose letters home as if they were new immigrants to this country. I then have them read the letters out loud....once with no music, then I add sad music and the kids faces get so sad and they interpret the letter as melancholy, then they read the same letter with happy music and they interpret the letter as cheerful. It's a powerful lesson. If these credits had Rogers and Hammerstein music under them there would be a totally different expectation.

 



#19 lovebirding54

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 12:55 PM

Simply from the sounds and images in the opening credits, I feel sure that something terrible is going to happen. The music is eery and with moments that stir a feeling of dread and the doot doot doot doot doot doot of a single instrument maybe a flute, I am not musical myself, actually sounds like a circular motion. The visuals that make you feel you are entering the mind from a woman's iris, leaves me feeling off center and uncomfortable as I have experienced the feeling of vertigo, a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height myself many times. I am not afraid of heights, but I am afraid and feel like I will fall when at places like Starved Rock, Illinois where the cliffs do not have railings to prevent falls. I do not like escalators and the music along with the spiral computer images gives me that same off feeling. It was very effective in communicating with me in the audience and probably resonates with others like me all too well.

 

The single most powerful image in this sequence is when the computer spirals emerge from red filtered eye, out of the iris, it feels like you are entering through that spiral into a person's mind.

 

The images bind together to give that spiral illusion with music and then adding the actual computer generated spirals complete the mission to make the audience feel the title Vertigo.



#20 devin05

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Posted 29 July 2017 - 01:07 AM

Describe what you think this film will be about simply from the sounds and images in these opening credits. Even if you have seen the film, try to focus on these sounds and images themselves and “the story” (or if not "the story," the mood and atmosphere they are establishing) that this sequence is communicating to the audience. 

 

Psychological Thriller.  The music with the strings creates a dizzyingly atmosphere, really a prototype for movies that have been more recent.  (ok, looking up the title opening for Scorsese's Cape Fear for reference, I learn it was designed by.....Saul Bass, music by....Bernard Herrmann in the original with Robert Mitchum)  Visually move away from realism to an abstract montage of images.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.

 

The close up of the woman.  So extreme that you can't see the whole face.  As the camera pans across the face, you see all the details, but not the face as whole, the expression "can't see the forest for the trees" comes to mind.  You can't get the whole picture as you look too closely at the details, like obsession, Scottie's obsession.

 

How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

Layering of sight and sound.  I have noticed that some of Hitch's earlier opening music over the credits, like in Shadow of Doubt, have been lighter than one would think, considering the music to Vertigo, Psycho, North by Northwest.  The spiraling graphics (a visual reference to vertigo) foreshadow the staircase used later in the movie, which compliment the dizzying music.






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