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'The Film Before The Film: An Introduction To The History of Title Sequences In 10 Minutes'

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act April 25, 2013 at 6:11PM

'The Film Before The Film: An Introduction To The History of Title Sequences In 10 Minutes'
1
Do The Right Thing

A short history lesson here that I landed on my virtual desk and that I thought was worth sharing. 


It did also remind me of an old piece I wrote on the old S&A site 3 years ago or so, on memorable title sequences. And the one that I highlighted with was Spike Lee's Do The Right Thing.

It's a film that stands the test of time, and the 4-minute title intro alone could be its own film (the film before the film). Rosie Perez, fueled by the Chuck D's coarse, urgent voice and lyrics, and Terminator X's beats, literally fights the power, as the tracks title suggests. 

Her colorful (literally and figuratively) dance routine exudes a range of emotions - simultaneously oozing sexuality and sensuality, combined with a confidence, vulnerability and ferocity, all in an expression of power and struggle, clueing the audience in to what kind of a ride to expect for the subsequent 2 hours. 

And I think this will always be remembered as one of the most unforgettable opening title sequences in film history. No CGI, no elaborate camera movements, no trickery. It's simple enough, but it works! 

And when the 4 minutes ends, you're sufficiently open and invigorated for whatever comes next. 

Refresh your memory of it all in the video clip below, and then answer the question that follows: Any other memorable title sequences from "black films" that you can think of? 

But first, here's the short documentary history of title sequences in movies - from the simple informative usually white text on black backgrounds in the very early silent days of cinema, to the changes that came with the advent of sound film, when they started to become more personalized, to the introduction of computer generated graphics, to becoming the form of high art that they are today - or the film before the film. 

The short informative doc was a research project at the Berliner Technische Kunsthochschule.

Watch it below, and then, underneath you'll find Rosie Perez fighting the power:




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