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building semblance

September 30, 2013


From Benjamin

The 51st New York Film Festival is on!  Along with a roster of new films debuting, there’s a slew of revivals, amongst which a restored version of Martin Scorcese’s 1993 The Age of Innocence will play on October 10th. While Edith Wharton’s late 19th century novel of upper class manners is evoked with minute detail in the film’s 139 minutes, the stunning visuals of designers Saul & Elaine Bass’s opening titles achieve nearly the same effect in just over three.

In these lush and saturated images, time lapse photography of blossoming flowers is seen through a scrim of lace – a genteel fabric in the service both of revealing and concealing a symbol of sex – just as the Victorian rules of decorum had a similar, dual-purpose of expressing and restraining the romantic & sexual mores of society’s Gilded Age.  A gently increased speed in the unfolding, and the minor chords of Charles Gounod’s 1895 opera, Faust, playing underneath, lend urgency and tension.   In the monograph “Saul Bass: A Life in Film & Design”, Scorcese comments on the Basses’ rendition, “…the whole movie was there…It has the longing, the hidden passion…” of the story.  Wharton’s cultural paradoxes, rendered in visual code.  Saul & Elaine Bass were architects of film

The full N.Y.F.F. schedule of films and talks runs through October 13th.


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