Thursday, 23 December 2010

Random Genius: Daniel Kleinman

In a destined-to-fail attempt to say nice things about all my movie heroes before they die rather than in a half-hearted obituary when their best work is long behind them, I thought it might be time to show some love for Daniel Kleinman, director of music videos, commercials and, most importantly, James Bond title sequences.
While there will always be a place in my Suit for Maurice Binder, who designed all but two Bond titles from Dr No in 1962 to Licence To Kill in 1989 (as well as the legendary gunbarrel opening), his sequences do tend to be a bit samey. I suppose when you've seen one silhouette of a naked chick stroking a gunbarrel in a way that suggests she's thinking about something else entirely, you've seen 'em all.

Anyway, after Binder passed away in 1991, the Broccolis hired Kleinman to design the opening for the next Bond, GoldenEye, after seeing his video for Gladys Knight's Licence To Kill theme song.

And by crikey he did a bang up job. The sequence is clever, innovative and relevant to the story (check out the statues of former Communist legends which crop up later in the film) but remains faithful to the traditions of Binder's work. It's also been blocked on YouTube by MGM on copyright grounds. So thanks for that.
Kleinman went on to do the title sequences for the next four Bond films, all of which tied the themes of each movie to his striking imagery in an eye-popping explosion of style. The World Is Not Enough and Die Another Day have also been yanked off of the YouTubes by an overzealous, bankrupt studio, but here (for now at least) is Kleinman's title sequence for Tomorrow Never Dies, complete with Sheryl Crow ruining everyone's day:

Kleinman saved his masterpiece, though, for 2006's big Bond reboot, Casino Royale. The titles are everything his others were but adds a retro touch to reflect the fact that it's an origin story for 007 (despite taking place in the present. And, er, with the same person playing his boss. Don't get me started).

For reasons I haven't been able to fathom, Kleinman didn't do the titles for the last Bond film, Quantum Of Solace - director Marc Forster used his favourite titles designers MK12, who farted out a lacklustre effort with some nice sand but not much else. The Incredible Suit crosses its fingers that if we ever get another Bond film, Daniel Kleinman will be back fondling our eyeballs with his cheeky fingers.


  1. Casino Royale is the best title sequence since For Your Eyes Only. I liked QOS's sequence, though it was a bit outside the norm.

  2. I know only of Kleinman's work on Bond; but knowing that, I have to heartily disagree with your sentiment.

    While I think Kleinman did the best title sequence ever with Goldeneye, out-Bindering Maurice Binder, I think the other Brosnan films had sequences more suited for the Attention Deficit Disorder crowd rather than being the beautiful pieces of art that Robert Brownjohn and Maurice Binder did. Until CR, each one got progressively worse. I liked, but did not love the Casino Royale title which I once saw a comment that referred to it as a "glorified Flash animation." I'd give it more credit than that, but it did make me yearn for the title sequences of the 60s, 70s and 80s.

    MK12s titles were still too ADD but seem to be a "sand version" of "You Only Live Twice", and yet felt closer in tone to anything Mr. Kleinman has done since the fantastic titles for "GoldenEye".

    I think it's just an inevitability; someone creates a style for many years. A replacement is chosen who does his best to emulate said style one time, and then goes astray from the formula. In and of itself, not a bad thing, but when it comes to Bond.... a little bit of formula is nice.

    I wouldn't mind seeing Mr. Kleinman come back, but only if he realized this. Women are art to be appreciated, regardless of culture and even sexuality. Binder always had a way of making the women sensual without making it filth, and his shots lingered over his beautifully made-up creations. Scorpions, oil, and crashing televisions do nothing for me. License to Kill's sequence didn't focus on drugs or vengance, but rather the settings of a wedding (using the camera) and the casino. For three minutes of the movie, those titles ARE the movie without feeling the need to summarize it.

    Take a look at David Arnold's Bond scores! Same thing. With Bond, at least outside of plot lines, women, and villains, formula works well when done well. Arnold only proved it once, but so did Hamlisch, Conti, and Martin. The only difference here is they each got one shot. I'm not saying Arnold's scores are lazy or bad... they just make me yearn for the master, John Barry.

  3. Quantum of Solace was a Bad Idea, no matter what part you're referring to.