The best thing about being a director is getting to take credit for other people's work.
Let us ponder the example of Psycho. The world of course knows it as "Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho." But honestly, what would the film be without the brilliantly eerie soundtrack by Bernard Herrmann? (Using only one instrument somemore). Or the source novel by Robert Bloch, where the entire story was taken from? Or the acting turn by Anthony Perkins which became so emblematic that it marked, for better or for worse, his entire subsequent career?
Then of course there's Saul Bass.
Saul who? Well, sit your butts down and find out.
Saul Bass (1920-1996) was the most reknown title designer there ever was. He created the look for the opening credits for dozens of Hollywood films, including three Hitchcock ones: the gorgeously disturbing colour swirls of Vertigo, the playfully iconographic North by Northwest, and of course the starkly fractured look for Psycho. The credit sequence didn't just become a way for the audience to find out who the main crew members were, but gave a big fat hint to the style and themes of the film as a whole. If you notice, the notion of Norman Bates' split personality is right there in the way the words arrange themselves, and that's before "the story" has even "started."
The opening credit sequence for Lelaki Komunis Terakhir was not my idea. I did not tell the director of photography Albert Hue to hang out of my car in that way and record the road. I just assumed he'd had a few too many beers. When I gave all the footages to the editor Azharr Rudin, I didn't tell him to start with that image. But that's what he did.
And it works.
This is a road movie, so it's apposite to start with a road. The dusty look to my green Iswara isn't just a testament to slovenly car-keeping, it gives a nice, albeit shabby, personal touch. Since the whole movie is very talky, the fact that no words are heard now is also a good calm-before-the-wordstorm. All the better to concentrate on the only words on screen, which is where the credits come on. All the names of the main crew are on the road, since we are all workers, literally down to earth, while the title gets the sky, a consuming idea above all. It was also the editor's idea to have the word "Komunis" blink red for a while. It's a wink, a sign that some parts of this movie shouldn't be taken so seriously. Let's not even start on the choice of font; who do I look like, Saul Bass?
Perhaps in a Q & A session somewhere I could cite the opening road journey of one of them Abbas Kiarostami films as the reason for this opening shot. But if you read this and then attend that screening, you'll know I'll be untrue. But some other people might buy it. After all, they had just seen "Amir Muhammad's Lelaki Komunis Terakhir."