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Having cast aside the more minimalist aesthetic of his early title sequences for the manic abundance of his Around the World in Eighty Days titles, Bass seems to have continued his experimentations with more formally complex title sequences with his next two Preminger collaborations. Retaining his signature cut-out imagery, Bass integrates different transitions and dissolves, creating a palimpsest of bells for Saint Joan and a tapestry of flowers, shells, and raindrops for Bonjour Tristesse.
Both films are literary adaptations, debuting Jean Seberg in a pair of somewhat improbable roles as French women. And though the films achieve only mixed results, both feature interesting formal experimentation concurrent with Bass’ own efforts in the title sequences. While Saint Joan is more notable for its script (adapted by Graham Greene from George Bernard Shaw’s play) than for any visual innovation, Bonjour Tristesse showcases Preminger’s widescreen compositional sense and the agility of his trademark tracking shots. It also displays his mastery of both black-and-white and Technicolor palettes, as the film moves from the monochrome present-day of Seberg’s disaffected Parisian socialite to the vibrant lustiness of her Mediterranean youth.
Bass’ opening credits suggest the arc of Francoise Sagan’s story, with colorful abstractions of shells and coral that dissolve into stars and flowers. Finally, these flowers’ petals become raindrops and then – in the image that brands the film – tears. The themes of passion, metamorphosis, sexual awakening, and melancholy that mark the progress of the film all find resonance in these titles. Artfully, Preminger follows Bass’ credits with images of the black-and-white, present-day Paris, removing his audience from an abstract, colorful evocation of youth and into an already harsh and effete reality.