From Ang Lee’s ‘Eat Drink Man Woman’ to ‘Amelie’: The pleasures of a well-crafted credits sequence

Posted on January 15, 2018


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When we think of title sequences, we recall the ones Saul Bass made for Hitchcock, or the ones in the Bond films, which I never tire of watching (the credits stretch of Skyfall is a favourite). But the opening isn’t just about fun or glamour. If done right, it sets up – stylishly (meaning, in a stylised manner) – the tone of the film that follows.

Which opening sequences in world cinema are a favourite? Let me list a few picks, beginning with the title sequence from Ang Lee’s Eat Drink Man Woman (1994). The story is about a Chinese chef, and here, we see a master of his domain whose only way of truly communicating with his daughters is through elaborately prepared traditional meals.

There’s more of a “plot” here than just the man’s mastery. For instance, we’ll see later that his youngest daughter works at a fast food restaurant, which serves cuisine from the other end of the culinary spectrum. The contrast is a hint of the clashes to come. I couldn’t find the titles sequence of René Clément’s Purple Noon (1960), an adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley – but there, too, we find hints of future plot. The names appear as signatures, because the protagonist (antagonist?) is a forger. But I did find the titles sequence from Anthony Minghella’s lush Hollywood version, released in 1999.

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