I was completely expecting to love “20 Feet From Stardom,” the Oscar-nominated documentary about backup singers. What I was not prepared for, however, was to be bowled over in the first 3 minutes of the film. They had me with the opening credits.
The title sequence takes vintage album covers, publicity shots, and concert stills, and obscures, Baldessari-style, the faces of the “stars,” with a large colored circles. This simple graphic device forces you to see only the backup singers, telegraphing visually, what the film delivers on in depth. And it’s all set to Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side (“and the colored girls sing …”). Very satisfying, indeed.
You can view the actual title footage on graphic designer Scott Grossman’s site. You can read more about director Morgan Neville’s homage to Baldessari in this New York Times piece.