Sunday, January 10, 2010


What Are Movie Credits For?

The afternoon used to be a nice time for a movie visit if you're particular about where you sit and are averse to noisy popcorn munchers. Used to until that moment a few years ago I had that entire Las Vegas movie theatre for myself just before the start. But typical: someone else comes in and sits down.

Of course, that would be trivial if he hadn't chosen the same row two seats along from my own. Didn't anyone tell the creep that there are fixed rules for people displacement in public places such as buses, trains, urinals, and yes, cinemas? But it's moments like these when you quickly learn how much our own behaviour and emotional responses are much more a product of the nature of our environment as it's clear his proximity was only worrying relative to the room's emptiness. In other words, the physiology of the environment was the key to the scary discomfort, not where he and I happened to be sitting, which naturally would, in the presence of a larger audience, be perfectly normal.

So nowadays it's packed evenings at the cinema. There we all sit enjoying the pre-movie ritual of the trailers of forthcoming attractions. That bit where we find out about what's coming up - even though you know right away that you mostly won't like them. But occasionally, something will intrigue you, catch your eye, enough that you'll really be impatient to see it in full when it comes out, that for me, I can tell straight away.

Then there's a short pause before the curtain is drawn, which is great because that's when everybody magically shuts the fuck up. And we see the famous Metro Goldwyn Mayer lion roar, the Paramount mountain top, or the mechanised Lionsgate (whose association with the Saw franchise often causes one an ice-cold anticipatory shudder). These brief logo sequences act as a preparation to lead us irresistibly to the induction of the opening credits that hopefully allow us to enjoy reaching the extended altered trance state we crave for the entire film.

The process has become so ritualised nowadays. It's not certain how much film producers are even aware of the credits' true importance, considering them a mere exercise in vanity, and thus abusing the audience in the mistaken belief that we care much about their content (other than perhaps IDing the name of a song). The current trend for opening titles that can last for several minutes often seem to prematurely break the entry towards the desired state, rather than help us achieve it.

Going to the movies is participating in a powerful form of mass hypnosis, which is what makes it so much more memorable and fun than sitting at home and watching some thing on TV. We enter into an unwritten contract with the moviemakers to manipulate the hell out of us for the duration, and for it to be done really satisfyingly and effectively well. If we partake in eating and drinking, far better it be stuffs that don't need to be seen, that can be mechanistically applied to our cataleptic torsos.

To neatly bring us out of trance, old films would announce 'The End' or 'Fin', whilst modern films are still followed by the customary scrolling credits to allow us some valuable contemplation time to recompose our emotions, feelings, and thoughts, if not our state of un/dress. And to then file back out into the lobby in an orderly fashion. Nothing worse than being caught in the harsh glare of houselights being switched back on, is there?

Meanwhile at Las Vegas, I got the hell out of there well before any of that and left the other guy to it.

coming soon:



Luke said...

These Dietrology posts are great William! I totally agree with your comment about disturbing opening credits that keep popping up on the screen all the way in to the movie.

I watched Cassavetes' Husbands not long ago, which has no closing credits or even 'The End' accouncement. And just a single static screen of opening credits followed by a series of still images. Very minimal by today's standards but so much more effective than most.

SYpHA_69 said...

I don't go to the movies all that often (on account of them giving me headaches) but when I do go, it's always in the afternoon, when the theater is all but deserted. It's nice to sit all by oneself in the back of an empty theater, and pretend it's one's own private theater.

Anonymous said...

Valid point, recent example of this kind of cinematic abuse of egress being the opening credits for Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1', obviously the French learning nothing from 'À bout de souffle', which had no credits, just the VISA number, a dedication and 'FIN'. On the other hand, as one who works in the "film industry" and is more than often than not underpaid, and at the back and call of inept directors who change direction like the wind, it's good to get some credit for your days and nights and days and nights of serfdom.

Alan.. said...

"The current trend for opening titles that can last for several minutes often seem to prematurely break the entry towards the desired state, rather than help us achieve it."

I'd say there are some notable exceptions to this, particularly the credits sequence of Bond movies. I'm not a particular fan of Bond and a proper bombastic cinematic theme coupled with sexy silhouettes of naked women and acts of violence absolutely puts me in the desired state of mind to enjoy the movie. When done well it turns curiosity into sheer excitement and anticipation.

Unfortunately, in the case of the latest Bond, the credits sequence was by far the most enjoyable part of the film

William Bennett said...

the delayed credits of the 007 films are indeed great, Alan; the long ones I refer to are those where you often get 10 minutes or more of continuous dripfeeding