Friday, January 22, 2010

Opening Scenes I Love:
Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

And now for the second in the series, Opening Credits I Love. For this edition we have Martin Scorsese's 1974 Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, not a film most people think of when they think of Scorsese but another great entry nonetheless in his stunning succession of films that started with Mean Streets in 1973 and ran through King of Comedy in 1983. Watching it again this week I realized that so many Scorsese films have superb opening title sequences. Think about the cab moving through the smoke and steam rising up from hell at the beginning of Taxi Driver or the beautiful image of Jake LaMotta, alone in the ring, shadow-boxing, in the opening of Raging Bull. Whatever you may think of the movies, and I think highly of them, those opening title sequences are marvelous. But here, in Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, we have my favorite of all Scorsese's openings.

It begins in Academy aspect ratio rather than widescreen as the music and blue satin background emulate the starry-eyed showbiz tales of old. After the titles themselves comes Scorsese's version of Dorothy's Kansas, except it's in color with a Gone With the Wind tinted red sky throughout. Alice as a child strolls along the landscape singing and despite the lack of appreciation she feels she gets, she knows she will be a star. Only little Alice's language betrays the rustic nostalgia on display, purposefully, and helps jolt the viewer forward in time to the present where, aided by Mott the Hoople's All the Way from Memphis and a sweeping crane shot (GWTW again?) that beautifully makes majestic the ordinary, we find the grown-up Alice at a sewing machine (Singer?), presumably having never succeeded in becoming a big-time entertainer. It's a fantastic introduction to the character and the story and it's one of my favorite opening credit sequences. Enjoy.

At Unexplained Cinema, the dark side of Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore.