Please forgive in advance my work lapses and decreased productivity today. Google has just posted on its home page its classiest Doodle yet — a stylish little video that is as addictive as it is inspired.
Thanks — and watch; you’ll see what I mean.
— Comic Riffs
TODAY, GOOGLE outdoes itself. Its video Doodle is sublime, and Bass is boss.
Wednesday’s 81-second tribute clip to late graphic designer and film artist Saul Bass — to celebrate what would have been his 93rd birthday — is a cool and precise aesthetic pleasure.
(Bass — like fellow Hollywood visual-effects titan Ray Harryhausen, who died this week — was born in 1920.)
Saul Bass didn’t just invent his graphic art form. He seized it with a golden arm in 1955 and, with a powerful visual fist, grabbed the attention and lapel of the American moviegoer. It was time to take notice: Film title sequences would no longer be a perfunctory affair. With a jagged jolt, Bass transformed the formerly staid credits into scenes that were psychologically — and cinematically — part of the entire experience.
Watching the title sequence now meant a deeper immediate engagement. Besides operating on an intellectual level, the visual was also the visceral.
“I had felt for some time that the audience involvement with the film should really begin with the very first frame ... ,” Bass said. “There seemed to be a real opportunity to use titles in a new way — to actually create a climate for the story that was about to unfold.”
“Saul Bass,” said Martin Scorsese, who used the artist for several films, “really was the first to take us into the modern sensibility.”
Google — led on this Doodle by designer/director Matt Cruickshank (artist on the new “Monsters University” Golden Book) — appreciates that as it visually references nearly a dozen classic Bass sequences and film posters.
The Doodle pays homage to the uneasy and ever-shifting lines of “Psycho’s” sequence; to the heroin addict’s forearm from Preminger’s “The Man With the Golden Arm”; to the power structures of “Advise & Consert”; to the fiercely liberating “Spartacus” poster art for Kubrick; to the kinetic streetscape of “West Side Story”; to the watchful eye and psychological spiral of “Vertigo.” We get the racing and disorienting lines of “North by Northwest” (a third Hitchcock nod, if you’re counting); the segmented body from Preminger’s “Anatomy of a Murder”; the LED glitz of “Ocean’s 11”; and the literal globe-hopping running clock from “Around the World in 80 Days.” Bass is also famous for such sequences as Scorsese’s “Casino,” “GoodFellas” and “Cape Fear”; the nostalgic “That’s Entertainment, Part 2”; and the whimsical “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” (and for obviously inspiring a direct descendant today: the opening “falling man” sequence from TV’s “Mad Men”).
And the entire Doodle (created in Illustrator and animated in After Effects) is smartly set to the 1961 Dave Brubeck Quartet song “Unsquare Dance.” (Bass, the Doodle artist says, was a Brubeck fan.)
Born in the Bronx, Bass grew up as an aspiring artist who “drew everything.” He became a successful corporate advertising artist for numerous iconic brands — “the Picasso of commercial artists” — before Otto Preminger hired him to do the sequence for 1954’s “Carmen Jones.” And Bass so impressed Hitchcock that the director involved him in working out the famed 70-shot shower scene in “Psycho.”
Bass created more than 40 title sequences over a four-decade-plus career, and received an Academy Award for his 1968 documentary, “Why Man Creates.” His art is in the Smithsonian and MOMA permanent collections.
Saul Bass died in 1996 in Los Angeles. He was 75.
“The goal, and the ultimate achievement, is to make people feel as well as think,” Bass said of his film and design work.
While we’re thinking of it: We still feel the sharp visceral richness of his work — even as we replay the Doodle yet again.
SOME OF THE FILM SEQUENCES THAT GOOGLE’S DOODLE PAYS HOMAGE TO:
TOP 10 GOOGLE DOODLES THAT HONOR VISUAL/MUSICAL ARTISTS:
1. WINSOR McCAY: THE OTHERWORDLY DOODLE
2. LES PAUL: THE PLAYABLE GUITAR
3. MARTHA GRAHAM: THE DANCING DOODLE
4. JOHN LENNON: IMAGINE THIS DOODLE
5. FREDDIE MERCURY: THE MUSIC VIDEO
6. JIM HENSON: THE CLICKABLE MUPPETS
7. CHARLES ADDAMS: THE SPOOKY DOODLE
8. ART CLOKEY: THE “GUMBY DOODLE”
9. MARY BLAIR: THE DISNEY DOODLE
10. DIEGO RIVERA: THE LARGER-THAN-LIFE MURAL