Dr. Rich Edwards

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

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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. 

There is a woman, she is watching something. She looks to the side, meaning she isn't looking at us  (as the eye in the opening shot of Blade Runner is 'the film watching you' according to Ridley Scott), and the spiral in the eye coupled with the revolving score, suggest visual distortion, or distorted perception.

 

The music also has underpinnings of dread or danger cued by the horns droning under the revolving sound.

 

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

I think it is interesting that in the opening shot the lips are the focus, before moving up to the eye. Is it to make sure we know the gender associated with the eye? Unclear -- I would argue unnecessary.

 

The most powerful image is the closeup on the eye during the shift from black and white to red. It looks like it is the same eye, but I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they had used red makeup around they eye to make it read different in B&W, similar to how they did the red filter technique for that Jekyll to Hyde transformation in one of those film adaptations.

 

That change, plus the eye widening in fear, make it unsettling.

 

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 revolves in concert with the spirals of the image as described above.

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I am going to use this space for a twofold response today. I am going to start with some thoughts regarding the innovative and provocative opening sequence designed by Saul Bass, then move into why I believe it is important to debunk the fact that VERTIGO is Hitchcock's masterpiece.

 

First and foremost, having seen the film nearly a decade ago for the first time and not having watched it since, I do admit a slight bias for my feelings after the first time I viewed it. Next, I am not a film scholar nor expert by any means, so I do not expect anyone who reads this to side with me on what I say as if I am some sort of authority. In short, I am merely stating an opinion that I have and that is not the one answer to how to respond to this film. Perhaps my thoughts will change after I watch it again next week, but for now, I will respond from memories I have of the film years ago and studies I've made of it since. But first, Saul Bass...

 

One thing that really, really works for this film is the brilliant opening sequence designed by Saul Bass. Not only does it unify so many parts that encompass the complexities of a film, but it also reminds us that, as Dr. Edwards has said, Hitch was a silent filmmaker at heart. Here you have the beginnings of a story unfolding, a sense of deep psychological torment as the camera begins with a pan on the eyes of a woman, eventually taking us into her complex mind filled with twists and turns in the style of Lissajous. These vivid and unique images, in addition to the emotionally symphonic sounds and underscores that the great Bernard Herrmann's score conveys, show us that the story will be a psychological thriller with a deeply emotional mood and complex atmosphere. I remember reading into the film's multifaceted plot line just from these credits when I first watched it.

 

I don't think that one single image can be seen as powerful here simply because the whole sequence is so complex and unusual. Without a clear image of what each squiggle, twist, and turn represent, I do not feel I can evaluate the power of the imagery. The pan in and out of the woman's eyes, however, is among the most powerful as it takes us into her psyche, exposing us to the ensuing story of thrill and torment. 

 

As I said above, Bass and Herrmann's collaboration works super well because of Herrmann's choices to underscore a symphonic and emotional score. Couple those emotions with Bass' storytelling technique of torment through the Lissajous, you have what becomes a complex story. 

 

Speaking of complex stories, a large part of why I fail to understand VERTIGO's stance as the greatest Hitchcock film has to do with the script. As a whole, I find the script is significantly lacking in substance, character development, and understandable conclusion. One may think that this is because I dislike ambiguity, but in fact, I do like it. I can deal with obscurities but not ones that are as complex as this. The ambiguity is not the real problem here. The problem is the lack of fluidity to the characters. We don't get to know Scottie the way we get to know L.B. Jeffries in REAR WINDOW (think of that outstanding opening sequence we watched yesterday that, with NO WORDS tells us what Jeff does for a living and how he got hurt...brilliant, am I right?).

 

While we know of Scottie's challenges at work and his task at hand, we do not know what has spawned his desire to obsess over the complex Kim Novak character. We don't have a clear picture of him at all. And that is because the script lacks the substance of other Hitch films that naturally and gently expose us to the characters' often shady pasts. One may also think that I don't like Hitchcock's lack of dialogue. That is something I also enjoy as my two favorite Hitch films, REAR WINDOW and PSYCHO, both have extensive periods with no dialogue. What doesn't work as well for VERTIGO is that the lack of dialogue does not come with those REAR WINDOW-esque openings that expose us to the backstory. The real backstory is lost here, which is why to many, it becomes too dream-like. It is easy, as Wes Gehring said, to confuse VERTIGO as a dream and not reality.

 

Above all things, I just remember thinking that VERTIGO does not compare to other films that have held #1 status. There are certainly things to like about it aside from the title sequence. Martin Scorsese's point about the car scene was a good one. That has some major intrigue but it slowly dwindles as boredom sets in. The location filming is wonderful and Hitch brilliantly uses it to build some type of development, albeit minimal in comparison to his other films. But when I think of other films that have held #1 or Top 10 slots like GONE WITH THE WIND, THE GODFATHER, or CITIZEN KANE, I think of innovation. I think of things the film did that hadn't been done before, or simply not as well. For GONE WITH THE WIND, those innovations are the scope of the Burning of Atlanta, an immense amount of extras, production design that was revolutionary, and an epic film like none seen before. For THE GODFATHER, those innovations are masterful storytelling, intense and powerful music at the baptism juxtaposed with the shooting of the five families, and a shift from location in the US and Italy. For CITIZEN KANE, those are the incredible camera shots, the framing of the narrative over decades, and the ability of so many neophytes and theatre, not film, professionals to come together to make a revolutionary picture and to play characters who age twice their real age.

 

While I understand why these films have faced criticism and have been deemed overrated in their own ways, I just do not see VERTIGO comparing. It is too simple in comparison. And I can deal with simple, too. But if it's simple, it also has to have added layers: strong character development, great performances (I love Stewart but this is not even one of his Top 5), a unified technical experience (VERTIGO does come close there), and overall fluidity. VERTIGO just lacks in one too many of these and it's simply not Hitchcock at his best! Think of what we've seen so far. Does it compare to the intrigue of THE 39 STEPS? The suspense of REBECCA or SHADOW OF A DOUBT? The cinematic nature and extraordinary set up of STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and REAR WINDOW? It is less intriguing, less suspenseful, and way less cinematic. Top 50 on major lists? Maybe. Top 100? Sure. Top 1-10? No way. 

 

Again, this is just my opinion. I apologize for my wordiness as I usually keep my comments on the forums briefer and to the point. I just thought this may start some good chat and expose others to the flip side rather than the often overused praise that makes it out to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest, films of all time. In reality, it is the pariah among many lists where it ranks in the top 10, but again, that is just what I think!

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Daily Dose #15 Lissajour Figures in Vertigo

 

I agree Hitchcock does use cinematic experimentation throughout his film career & we should be glad he did that. His work doesn't look like everyone else's. 

 

I can see the geometry (rhizome.org) in the opening  title sequence & it does make a viewer feel the dizziness of Vertigo...both the movie & the disorder. 

 

So, this is the first computer-aided imagery in the movies & the M5 military computer weights 850 lbs...

that's a cool fact to know.

 

I do like the closeup of the women's eye & the spiral within it; the spiral looks like a  galaxy far, far away. spinning in its lonely orbit out of reach. 

 

The black & white eye swirl goes green...green is one of the signature color in this movie...it is everywhere & means signifies different emotions. I read this in the material provided by Dr. Edwards.

I agree with it.

 

The white swirl  ( just before the BW eye I mentioned above) looks like dolphins to me... it does. It becomes pale blue before dissolving into something else.

 

The geometry of the title sequence is beautiful & I'm glad someone was smart enough & bold enough to try it.

 

I'll have to re-watch the opening before I can comment on the music & then come back here.  As I've mentioned before I'm no expert on music. I do have an interest in learning graphic design...especially after watching this & what it can do & how it can be applied across many fields of study.

 

Until later.

 

I'm back....have re-watched the lecture video with the music on & I like the blip...blip...blip that sounds like metallic raindrops & what sounds like an organ with someone holding down the keys...I have no idea what actual musical instruments were used to create these sound effects. Also, the kaleidoscope effect that remind me of the a  childhood toy I had...the definition is from (Translations & Word Origins) a constantly changing pattern or sequence of objects or elements...A tube containing mirrors & pieces of colored papers whose reflections produce changing patterns visible through the tubes eye hole while tube is being turned by someone looking through it.

 

The computer-aided opening sequence is high tech...the kaleidoscope is a kids toy...what I'm trying to say is that I agree with the definition of what a kaleidoscope produces...its idea in reference to Hitchcock's movies & his 'touch' ...creating an illusion in a viewers mind...the kaleidoscope is being cinematic. 

 

The music fits the imagery that is created with the  military computer. The movie is complex,...the subplot of the museum painting for example & the two characters of Kim Novak. Staying with the opening sequence however, I will end this with agreeing with the complex imagery of the spirals, & spinning out into cold, cruel space that nobody can enter & exit in one piece like the character of Scottie (Jimmy Stewart.

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1. Visuals

 

At first I think the movie will be about obsession or infatuation with a woman. I think this because the camera is SO close to her face that it represents this desire to get as close as possible to a love object.  It's like there's this inappropriate closeness. (I remember seeing Psycho on the big screen and feeling that the close ups of Janet Leigh were almost claustrophobic for me- like bad boundaries or something). Then when I see the red tint on her eye I get the sense it will be a movie perhaps having to do with photography or a dark room- since dark rooms have that red light. But the red light also feels like panic or danger. When the woman's eye opens wide, I get a sense of fear or violence being done to this woman. But then when I see the spirals coming out of her eye I realize the movie will be about "seeing" and the subjectivity of human experience. One person sees something and processes it in a totally different way than another person. The mutating spirals represent the mind and psyche distorting the seen reality of the dilating iris. Then I start to see fingerprints in the spirals and I realize this movie will be about identity or perhaps a crisis of identity. I realize there might be a sense of losing one's self or one's perspective. I get a sense of falling into one's own subjective point of view to the point of madness. The spirals finally evoke DNA and I realize that we're dealing with the most primal aspect of identity and "soul".  

 

Sounds

 

The strong bass horns give me a feeling of "bigness" like solid mountain ranges or sturdy monuments or large basins of water. I get a kind of primal, volcanic, geologic throbbing feeling like we're dealing with weighty issues of mankind and history. The tingling clarinets (?) give me a precipitous feeling of cliffs or teetering or swinging rope bridges or swaying tall trees. The alternation of these two tones is what really gets me off kilter and vulnerable. Isn't this evocative of the music for the opening of the Shining? Is it Mahler? I can't remember what it's called but it's a famous piece of music that is super scary. 

 

2. I think the most important image is the first spiral (pink?) coming out of the pupil of her eye- because this is a kind of penetration of the body and is also the moment that we transition from photography to animation. It's the moment that we realize this movie is intellectual and not just physical. The obsession is not simply pornographic, but is psychological, possibly pathological and yet, somehow, possibly romantic as well, since these spirals are beautiful, complex, pristine and elegant. The moment expresses the verticality- the "falling", the "deepening" impulse that we find throughout the movie. This idea of the spiral expanding into a DNA like staircase. It visually represents the spiral staircase of the soul. 

 

3. I guess you just say they work together perfectly? What else can you say? They interlock like perfectly crafted puzzle pieces. They complement each other, strengthen each other, burrow into each other like roots taking hold. A different music score would possibly take away the terrifying mystery of it? The spirals might seem psychedelic or cheesy with a different score? The whole thing could be camp?

 

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The opening images gives me a sense that there will be many twist and turns in this film. The music gives me a clue that I will be shocked and frighten at times.

 

The single most powerful image for me the sequence with the face. There is time spent on the face so it must be important to the film. I know when I first saw Vertigo I thought I must study this face. I will see it again in the body of the movie.

 

The music and the images work together in conveying the thought of twist and turns in the plot of the movie. Very gripping music throughout the movie. At times it scare the crap out of me.

 

 

 

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The title sequence establishes a sinister, unsettling tone for the film to come. Bass's graphics do a great job in visualizing the feeling of vertigo that is, of course, central to the film. It also established subconsciously to the reader that this spiral shape is going to be important. The score is discordant and puts me on edge just remembering it. Though a little too early for the psychedelic movement, the title sequence could easily be mistaken for coming from that era, it is that trippy and unsettling. A more whimsical score would have definitely softened the impact of the images and set the tone for a completely different film.

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  1. In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful image in this title sequence? Defend your answer.  How do Saul Bass’ images and Bernard Herrmann’s score work together? How different would this sequence be with a different musical score?

 

The most powerful image is when the camera closes in on the widened, frightened eye, and it becomes a spiral.

 

We have been set up by the ominous music that gets louder every time a name appears on the screen, i.e., Jimmy Stewart. We already don't know what to expect, why is the camera closing in on the  lips, cheeks, the eyes and finally the one eye? Of course, that's the moment when the title "VERTIGO" appears on the screen - to correspond to the spiral overlay on the eye. Vertigo as in fear, dizziness and the audience will feel the "whirlies" while watching that title sequence.

 

The music, imagery and graphics are wonderful!

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The movie, or "the story" will be about a plot that seems to have no end or have no logic. In a way, like spirals, you can almost get lost in where you are in the story with the plot progression. The music makes one think that there will be a lot of suspense or threads that need figuring out. And this ties in nicely with the spirals in the opening because it reinforces the notion that "the story" will leave the audience in suspense.

 

It would be easy to say that the spiral is the most important and powerful image in the title sequence but I believe it is the woman's face. To be honest, I have seen the film and I do know that the movie's plot centers on an obsession with a woman and for that reason, the characterization of a woman in the title opening foreshadows the rest of the movie. The spiral that engulfs her eye signals that the plot, mainly the protagonist, will lose himself in the obsession with the woman.

 

The images by Saul Bass and the score by Herrmann work like hand and glove for the sequence. The lecture notes are spot on that the two almost play off one another in placement and composition because the effect is like parallel movement. As the score swells or quiets, the image correspondingly move. If either were changed, the opening sequence would not work as well. 

 

 

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I think the opening sequence is meant to evoke the subconscious and the sometimes unreliable workings of the mind. The woman's face is disturbingly close, it's raw and exposed. The eyes seem to express fear or concern...and then the fade to red....it's frightening...what is she seeing?! The music moves along a similar arc....beginning with a dreamy or fantasy like tone, to fear then horror. 

 

This hasn't always been my favorite H movie, but it's one that compels me to watch again and again and I think that is the magic of it. Powerful and influential art doesn't always make us feel good, we can be repelled and confused, horrified and angered....This film does that for me.

 

I love the moment at the end of the opening sequence when Hitchcock's name rises from the woman's eye...it leaves no doubt for us who's vision and mind we are seeing. It is perfectly punctuated by the music as well and reminds us that he is in charge. 

 

 

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1. The visuals and the music draws the viewer in with almost a hypnotic feeling. It draws you in from the first with just Novak's chin and the credits of Stewart. The lettering isn't out of the ordinary but the music actuates to make the viewer notice. The music intensifys ash the camera moves up her face and becomes more intense as Novak and Hitchcock's naked is shown. Once the camera focuses on her eye and the spirals start it draws you in even further. With the music and the spirals it gives a hypnotic feeling and mystery. Not quite foreboding but you know that it has something to do with Novak's character.

 

2. The spirals is what drew me in. The different shapes, colors and spinning gives the impression of falling into an abyss. The other thing I notice was the spiral within a spiral to further fall until it was the shape of an eye that zoomed out on the real one.

 

3. I think they went well together. You notice how well when the first spiral forms the music is in the same motion. As the credits play out the colors and the music change to feel like something suspenseful and ominous is going to happen but not sure what.

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1.  The music starts first, and sets a tone of mystery with a lot of punctuation from dark brass sounds that are dissonant from the hypnotic tone of the rest of the opening of the score.  The mood is definitely ominous, but also somewhat relaxing -- so it sets up that there are going to be a lot of conflicts in this film. 

 

2.  For me the single most powerful image is when the face is washed over with red, and the spiral begins in her eye.  That is one arresting image, and it starts the sequence of all the different types of spirals.  I find it interesting that the sequence with the spiral ends the way it began -- with the eye on the screen covered with a red wash.

 

3.  The score and the images are totally in sync.  I watched it again with the sound turned down, and I realized you can have a faster score and make it seem a little more "funhouse" than it actually is.  Or you can have a more string-based score and just making it a mesmerizing image to watch.  The score and images are both consonant and dissonant, which makes it perfect as the opening for Vertigo.

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  • Describe ...audience. 

     

  • What you see as the Lissajous figures begin small and grow and that they all had a retina-like image in them--just like the real human woman's eye, but also something more.  The perfect figures swirl and twist and change from a mathematical figure-to-a slinky figure-to a kaleidoscope figure ...this tells us things will be evolving in this film starting small and maybe ending poorly.  The atmosphere is highly unhealthy, the mood is like you are sick.

 

In your own estimation, what is the single most powerful ...Defend your answer.

 

The Lissajous figure as they stimulate a type of dizziness, loss of balance, nausea, anxiety, soon-to-have vomiting/emesis and a true sense that your world is spinning or moving out of your control ...hey, just like the signs and symptoms of vertigo!!  The red is like the flashing red lights of an ambulance, of blood, of negative things going on here, not red for passion.  The music tells us it is not passion, but illness.  But ...what about those humans and dogs that are colorblind and only see blue?  They still need to see the Lissajous figures to get what is going on.  Pure genius!

 

How do ...different musical score?

 

Like ebony and ivory, like salt and pepper, like vertigo and illness.  The decresendo and crescendo sequences work magically.  For Mr. Hermann, this was a very complex film to do the musical score I would imagine.  The music could change the whole movie actually if it was upbeat, child-like, chipper, more joyful or even if more like an image you see at a planetarium related to sciences, math and the galaxies ...just unknowns and wonder, not vertigo and illness--whether that be physical or mental or both.

 

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The opening sequence focusing on the parts of a face abstracts the beauty of that face into its parts for consideration. I think it is clear that Hitchcock wanted the viewers to see only parts instead of the whole. You are led to believe the face will be an important part of the story, yet you will have to piece it together.

 

The change of color from black and white to red and "Vertigo" appearing from a widened eye was very powerful. It shifted the feeling while watching the opening sequence from mere interest to apprehension. The Lissajous figure appearing in the eye then proceeds to give you the impression of an inner turmoil or physical sense of being dizzy.

 

The images and score work together to give a mesmerizing effect. The Lissajous figures are hypnotic and absorbing to watch, and like the music, are repeating/revolving patterns which give the sequence is spellbinding atmosphere.

 

 

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  The title sequence of "Vertigo" relies heavily on the concept of the Lissajous Figure, a repetitive motion that can produce a repeating design. Lissajous figures can only vary through changing the ratio of it's curves to it's base or planes. It resembles a pendulum motion which is traditionally a motion used to induce hypnosis. The Saul Bass design coupled with the Bernard Hermann score in "Vertigo's" opening reflect this idea of a repeating motion confined to a space. The only time this shape changes is due to it's slight change in motion. Vertigo is a feeling of being disoriented yet confined. It is a repeating condition that is extremely uncomfortable and takes the afflicted out of a normal plane of existence and into a tight, circular (repeating pattern) and spinning place that is hard to disengage. We, the audience, are being pulled into this repeating circular space in the title sequence. The Hermann score is a repeating theme only played slightly differently as the title pulls us through it's confined  plane of existence.

  The lips are the sensual motivator to this pull as seen in the close up of the woman's face during the James Stewart title, they signal the motivation to this obsessive pull. The iris, or circular structures of the eyes, are what concentrates and witnesses this motion and whirlpools us further into the mindset or psyches of the afflicted protagonists of the title. The camera, in turn, has an iris or eye, another spiral reference. This pull or vertigo appears almost a helpless condition as the repeating opening figures are not strayed from it's revolving forms, the title only veers slightly and so does the score. They remain tight.

  One gets the feeling we, the audience, and maybe the protagonists of the story may be pulled and locked into a repetitious behavioral condition of some sort of which we/they may not be able to escape. It seems by no accident that Mr. Hitchcock chose San Francisco as the setting of "Vertigo." With the City's repeating pattern of steep hills and streets, it can call to mind the sinusoidal waves in a Lissajous oscilloscopic figure, making the traveler disoriented and vertiginous yet somewhat dazzled by it's beautiful display.

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​1. Even if you didn't know the plot of the film, the opening credits can already tell you the emotional side of the story for Vertigo and set the tone for the whole movie. The music is intense and pulls you in, and accompanied by the swirls and the woman's face, makes you feel fearful but intrigued. It also has a dizzy feeling, and visually illustrates obsession in that Scottie's thoughts are in a constant loop that always lead back to Madeline.

 

2. The most powerful image in this sequence for me would be the close up of the woman's right eye, when the red light shines on it . This part just gave me chills because the red can mean fear, danger, and obsession, and when it is shown on the eye, the woman's pupil dilates and her eyelids open wide, and it makes you afraid not only because of what might happen to her, but to you as well, because what she is looking at seems to be directly behind the audience. It makes you just shrink in your seat and worry even though you have no idea who this person is, and I think that is what makes it really powerful.

 

​3. Let me just say that I absolutely love how the score works together with the images. Not only do you see spirals, but the music, going up and then down and then up again and down again in pitch, creates circles and spirals of sound. The way there are sudden loud notes from the brass that fade into quiet is also reminiscent of falling, whether that be in love/obsession or down a flight of stairs. Any other musical score would just not work because it would not unite the idea of spirals and the emotions of fear, dizziness, hypnotism, and obsession, through both sound and sight the way this score does.

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The most powerful moment for me was when the spiral suddenly appears in the red face. The twirling had a sucking effect that drew me into the eye, into the mind behind the eye, and into that chaotic brain. After that point, the swirling dizzying effect never ceased. Earthshine mentioned a "pre-existing" condition that affected the response. Me, too. I am very susceptible to motion sickness, and the twirling effect very quickly began to make me nauseous. Added to that, the musical score felt to me like motion in water, and just irregular enough for me to feel quite woozy. The "vertigo" in the title was recreatedeasily in me by this opening sequence. And I'm wondering if a lot of us don't have some sort of "pre-existing" condition that would make us susceptible to this barrage of dizzying motions. Saul Bass knew what he was doing.  You know you're getting into a disruptive experience, one possibly connected with a femme fatale, and that it would be unsettling.

 

 

 

Suffering from mild epilepsy, as I do, I sense that something or someone will disrupt the equilibrium for another character (I'm assuming this will involve Novak and Stewart?)  I sense this because the credits open on various portions of what I am assuming is Kim Novak's face.  We are asked to look first at her jaw, then her lips, nose, and both eyes (these last three features being symmetrical/balanced).  No disequilibrium yet.  However, the camera then focuses on one eye and we are drawn into it, seemingly spiraling downward.  This creates a very unsettling feeling for me at least because of my "pre-exisiting" condition.  Coupled with the film's title, this opening sequence suggests that some sort of mental imbalance or instability will be the focus of the film.

 

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To me, the opening sequence images and the tone of the music let me know that we'll be watching a film about a relationship between two people that becomes mysterious, dark and disturbing as it deepens. The changing, swirling patterns reflect the many twists and turns that will be occurring in the story.

 

I love the transition from black and white to color as the sequence plays out. Relationships aren't black and white, and the use of color reflects the range of emotions that the characters (and we) will be experiencing. Bass' images and Bernard Herrmann's music are perfect together. I've not seen this film in many years and had forgotten just how striking the opening sequence is, as least to me. It is mesmerizing!

 

I've loved Bernard Herrmann's music all my life. I don't know anything about how a composer creates music to enhance what we're watching on the screen. So I don't know what this opening sequence would be like if someone like Dimitri Tiomkin had written the music instead. It makes me wonder how a producer/director chooses a composer to write the music for a film.

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We see a very tight close-up of Kim Novak's face. There is fear in her eyes, like she has seen something disturbing. What has she seen that will affect what will happen in the film? The Lissajous figures hypnotize us, giving us a feeling of being transported to another time and place.

 

The eye is the most powerful. It is said the eye is the window to the soul, and we will be seeing two very disturbed souls in this film. The spinning Lissajous indicate that in the title sequence.

 

The two set each other off perfectly. with the tempo matching the movement of the spinning images. If it were a comedy, we'd probably hear something peppy an playful.

 

P:S: And remember, Scottie will like you better if you are a blonde. Conform.

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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. 

 

The colors red and green interplay throughout this credit sequence and become associated with the two women in the film, Madeline and Judy.  The colors reference the stop/go mentality within Scottie: whenever he sees these women, he will falter and stumble, attempt his communication in fits and starts.

 

These beautiful designs echo the kaleidoscope merging of color, pattern, and shape, but these spirals are more orderly and orchestrated, much like the narrative itself.

 

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

 

Although I love Bass’s graphics, the text reading "James Stewart" above Kim Novak's lips sound as harbinger of the trouble those lips will bring . . .  and, of course, we end the graphic sequence back in the center of Novak’s face, her eye, another powerful symbol in the film.

 

Oh, and I noticed that Hitchcock’s name appears twice, as if to set up the whole doubling motif.

 

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

 

The images and score work in harmony to amplify and retract—once again we see the stop/go; hard/soft; yes/no bifurcation that we’ll experience throughout the film.

 

 

 

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What will the film be about?  The zoom in to parts of a woman's face, not a whole face, suggests fragmentation.  The spirals and sound suggest hypnosis or psychosis. The eyes appear to express fear of being pursued.    It is about a woman who is more than meets the eye.

 

The single most powerful image in the opening for me is the zoom into the eye with red background.  Besides the dangerous red, there is an outward spiral like a psychological explosion.  At the end of the clip we come back into this eye with the inward spiral.

 

Hard to imagine the images without the score and vice versa.  The music is haunting, makes us on edge, dizzying like the images.  It is easy to see that the composer and artist share a creative spark. 

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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. 

 

 

If you’ve never seen Vertigo, you’re in for a treat.

 

I saw all of Hitchcock’s “banned” films as soon as Universal released them.

 

A friend of mine…a personal digression interruption…(who used to write those over-intellectual film reviews for the Village Voice [a newspaper published in New York City]; even their reviews of rock bands were so cerebral, they removed the music for me. He also was friends with Pauline Kael, who he referred to as “Pauline” as if I would know any Pauline… not to digress any further),insisted I see Vertigo immediately.

 

 

So I saw Vertigo early on. I knew the basics of the story and about the work of Saul Bass, from his advertising years. But I do remember I was very interested in the titles. And they thrilled me. I felt dizzy - like I was falling into the screen. The perfect emotional response.

 

My aide was here today (who had never gone to the movies due to lifetime commitments) and I showed her the opening titles. She thought the movie was “going to be about something scary and creepy… especially when those things came out of her eye.”

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

I would agree with my aide. When the eye was behind a red filter, it disturbed me. I was upset even before the Bass effects began. The shade of red he used seemed like “blood red,” not a bright lipstick red so was very unsettling to me. Then when the opticals came out from deep within, it suggested that eye belonged to someone who was mentally ill. The defense rests.

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

Herrmann’s music added a swirling tension to the

visuals; a perfect marriage of sight and sound. His

score, under the titles, projects the elements of

space, time, repetition, tension and foreboding.

These ingredients are essential to what we will see

in the story.

 

I can’t imagine who else Hitch would choose to

write a different score after Herrmann.

 

 

 

 

 

MUSICAL FACTOID Hitch had a falling out with

Herrmann which is why he used hired and fired

Henry Mancini for Frenzy saying his score

sounded too much like Herrmann “If I want

Herrmann, I’d ask for Herrmann,” and hired Ron

Goodwin. He then had John Williams score Family

Plot. In MHO, no one ever replaced Bernard

Herrmann.

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Even if I didn't know this was a Hitchcock movie I would still think this is a psychological suspense/thriller only by this introduction, and besides the coloration my favorite thing in this picture is the soundtrack, it evokes mystery and restlessness in a beautifuly efficient way. Personally my favorite image here is when the camera focus on the woman's eyes, it's powerful and give us the feeling of uneasiness that blends perfectly with the soundtrack.

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First a quick question. Has anyone else had trouble signing on to the Forum? I was unable to sign on and unable to set my password so I finally just made a new account. Instead of going to Pluto I'm now still going to Pluto

 

The thing I found most interesting in the opening credits is actually a repetition of a motif. The swirling images always have a smaller one growing out of the cener of a larger one. These patterns lseems to follow the crescendos that occur in the music. To me the effect is that you're being pulled in (Since it Vertigo, the fear of heights, maybe I should say pulled down) to a place you may or may not want to go. I think this represents not only the actual condition of vertigo but also foreshadows what will more than likely be happening in the movie.

 

I say a place you may or may not want to go because I have a slight case of vertigo. I call it the fun kind because I get a little bit of a thrill from looking down -kind of like being on a roller coaster. It makes me a little dizzy so I definitely would not want to climb down while looking down but luckily it's not debilitating. The point of the story is that the swirling images, in my opinion, really are a great artistic representation of my type of vertigo.

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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 have never seen the movie, but the whole opening throws me off a bit. It made me nervous seeing all the shapes and the music is haunting. It did not give me a happy feeling. It almost made me a little anxious which is what Hitchcock may have intended.

 

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

 

I think it is the eye. I think it is like looking into the soul of the person. I believe Hitchcock is telling us without words that the way we see things is not always how they seem to be. The shapes are round like the eye. One of the first shapes looks like a hurricane symbol that the meteorologists use. It symbolizes the eye of the storm. Things are churned up before and after the eye.

 

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

 

They both did an excellent job of making me feel unnerved and on edge. I wasn't sure what to expect next. I think the music was the key to the creepy feeling. The same pictures with an upbeat score might have been completely different.

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Daily Dose #15  High Anxiety inspirations  :D

 

"Round, like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel,

Never ending or beginning on an ever-spinning reel....

 

Pictures hanging in a hallway or the fragment of a song,

Half-remembered names and faces but to whom do they belong?
When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware,
That the autumn leaves were turning to the colour of her hair...

 

A circle in a spiral, a wheel within a wheel,

Never ending or beginning, on an ever-spinning reel,
As the images unwind, like the circles that you find,
In the windmills of your mind......"

 

 

  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. 

  Clearly, this is meant to be the enlightening biographical film of the life of British Engineer Denys Fisher, inventor of the Spirograph Art Toy....if only he hadn't invented it after this film came out  (Toy was first offered for sale in 1965)...

 

post-74193-0-99421600-1500500881_thumb.png

 

So what we have is a woman, a title, and some artistic spirals.  From which we can deduce the following.  

The woman is either the lead protagonist or the female lead.  She will be at the center of the film in some capacity.

The title is Vertigo, which most folks at the time probably didn't know the meaning of (until they watched the film)

The spirals can represent rings, but they seem to have a hypnotic effect.  Is hypnosis involved?  Brainwashing?  Will this be Hitchcock's version of the Manchurian Candidate?  (except the Manchurian Candidate doesn't come out until 1962, damn.)  Add to this the music and we have suspense.  What is Kim Novak's role in all this?  What do the spirals mean???  The movie hasn't started yet and already I'm on the edge.  What if I fall?  

 

"It’s just that I recall

Back when I was small
Someone promised that they’d catch me
And then they let me fall...

And now I’m fallin’
Fallin’ fast again
Why do I always take a fall
When I fall in Love’...."

 

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

 

There is a blue spiral that begins at the 2:00-minute mark and last for about 15 seconds before another spiral appears within it.  The spiral is eye shaped and is symbolic of the movie looking at the viewer looking at the movie which is looking at the viewer...

post-74193-0-07708900-1500500800_thumb.png

 

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

 

As I have mentioned before, the combination of the music and images sets up a feeling of suspence and, dare I say it (dare, dare!) a feeling of anxiety that other music wouldn't do.  Imagine the titles with "Windmills of your mind" playing with it.  Different movie, different feeling of what to expect.

 

Walt3rd

 

p.s.  Did someone say Anxiety??

 

 

 

 

post-74193-0-07708900-1500500800_thumb.png

post-74193-0-99421600-1500500881_thumb.png

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