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Substance with Style: The Incomparable Career of Saul Bass

Saul Bass may very well be one of the most influential film artists to only have directed a single film himself. Here’s a montage celebrating his incomparable body of work.
By  · Published on May 21st, 2020

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As The Criterion Channel puts it: “there were title sequences before Saul Bass, and there were title sequences after Saul Bass.” The graphic artist, born a century ago on May 8th, changed the pace, look, and feel of motion-picture credits. From his innovatively kinetic graphic work on Carmen Jones and The Man with the Golden Arm, Bass spent his career revolutionizing the art of the title, employing everything from minimalist animation to live-action inserts, to time-lapse photography to create both a climate for the feature to follow and to encapsulate the mood, tone, and texture of the story itself. The movie experience, in Bass’ philosophy, was to take shape from the very first frame.

Bass only directed one feature-length film—the aesthetically striking and cooly apocalyptic Phase IV—and yet his innovative graphic work enjoys one of the most influential legacies of any film artist in the twentieth century. The Criterion Channel is currently celebrating Bass’ career by streaming films featuring his graphical work, as well as his feature film Phase IV. The streaming service is promoting and the collection with a trailer of the artist’s work, and the montage shows, without telling, that the man was a genius.

The collection is now available for streaming and includes: The Big Knife (Robert Aldrich, 1955), The Man with the Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, 1955), Around the World in 80 Days (Michael Anderson, 1956), Storm Center (Daniel Taradash, 1956), Bonjour tristesse (Otto Preminger, 1958), The Big Country (William Wyler, 1958), Cowboy (Delmer Daves, 1958), Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger, 1959), The Facts of Life (Melvin Frank, 1960), Ocean’s 11 (Lewis Milestone, 1960), Something Wild (Jack Garfein, 1961), West Side Story (Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, 1961)*, Walk on the Wild Side (Edward Dmytryk, 1962), It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (Stanley Kramer, 1963), Bunny Lake Is Missing (Otto Preminger, 1965), Grand Prix (John Frankenheimer, 1966)*, Seconds (John Frankenheimer, 1966), Phase IV (Saul Bass, 1974), The Human Factor (Otto Preminger, 1979), and The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993). Asterisked titles will arrive on the streaming platform on June 1st.

You can watch Criterion Channel’s ‘Saul Bass Turns 100’ trailer here:

Who made this?

This montage trailer was compiled by the fine folks over at The Criterion Channel, the streaming service of the Criterion Collection. The service features classics and discoveries from around the world, thematically programmed with special features.

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Meg Shields is the humble farm boy of your dreams and a senior contributor at Film School Rejects. She currently runs three columns at FSR: The Queue, How'd They Do That?, and Horrorscope. She is also a curator for One Perfect Shot and a freelance writer for hire. Meg can be found screaming about John Boorman's 'Excalibur' on Twitter here: @TheWorstNun. (She/Her).