Saul Bass on Film (Day 2): "Phase IV", "Quest" & "The Solar Film"

Seekers of celestial psych cinema need no longer cue up 2001’s “Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite” to unlock their third eye: enter the optically luscious, organically abstract and singular universe of one of the 20th century’s greatest artists. Saul Bass once said “design is thinking made visual” and, throughout his career, always thought two steps ahead of the collective consciousness, birthing images both instantly timeless and boldly progressive. It’s a testament to Bass’s unique eye that his 1980 educational short The Solar Film (exploring how we can harness the sun’s power) manages to make our own Spaceship Earth feel alien and fantastic — and that his jaw-dropping, crystalline 1983 sci-fi short Quest (adapting a story by the late Ray Bradbury) achieves effects of such scope and quality on such limited means that George Lucas made his staff at ILM study it. As amazing as these shorts are, they are the worker ants to the queen ant that is his monumental achievement Phase IV, a triumph of visual storytelling that communicates impending sentient insect peril through unparalleled microphotography, sound & art design, abstract architecture and subtle gestures. As if taking Kubrick’s monolithic freakout as a cinematic challenge, Bass takes up the mantle of smart and strange sci-fi in what is rightly 2001’s legitimate progeny. Widely underappreciated and guaranteed to be the most stunning theatrical experience you’ll have this year, Bass’ sole feature is a trip you don’t want to miss.
Phase IV Dir. Saul Bass, 1974, 35mm, 91 min.

Archival materials courtesy of the Academy Film Archive.

Watch Cinefamily’s original trailer for “Saul Bass On Film”!

Watch the trailer for “Phase IV”!
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Watch an excerpt from “The Solar Film”!
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Watch an excerpt from “Quest”!
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