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Monday, February 21, 2011


I've been meaning to do a blog post showing the posters for the films I'm screening in my independent film class, and some recent poster news is giving me a good impetus to close the deal. Chris Ware, one of the most interesting cartoonists around, has created a very distinctive poster for Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the latest film by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, one of the most interesting directors around. It's an unexpected intersection of two of my favorite artists. Click the image below to see a larger version of the poster:

I also might as well post a few more links pertinent to the art of movie posters, since I've been collecting that sort of thing in my bookmarks for a while (and it'll provide a helpful jumping-off point for my "Art & Advertising" class, which is starting a poster design project this week). First off, a link to posters commissioned by the Alamo Drafthouse, a famous venue for screening offbeat films; the Alamo is probably the most prominent source for limited-edition artist-designed posters for repertory films. I think of them as film-poster versions of a good cover tune. Below is an Alamo poster for The Shining:

An artist who's done several posters for the Alamo is Olly Moss, who has made several in the vein of the great designer Saul Bass -- here's a Bass-inflected design by Moss:

And to pick up again for a moment on The Shining kick (for some reason, that flick has inspired a lot of great repertory posters), below is a treatment done by Moxy Creative, for a series of redesigned posters inspired by Men's Style (thought in this particular case, it's more like ectoplasmic adolescent style):

Those Moxy posters trade on knowledge of the film -- they make more sense if you've already seen the movie. There seems to be a whole set of designers who make retroactive poster designs based on this sort of inside-baseball visual punning (like the Back to the Future 2 riff below, which I swiped from a blog post on "Minimalist Movie Poster Designs"):

And if you want to go really minimalist, you should check out, a site where you can see movie posters reduced to their most iconic design elements -- The Deer Hunter gets the abstracting treatment here:

Another transformative tack on movie iconography comes from Andrey Kuznetsov, who has drawn images of blockbusters as if they were being advertised via Medieval woodblock print:

Any look at outre movie posters would be remiss to leave out the Polish poster designers who have both managed to create some perfectly poetic images for great films, and even some perfectly poetic images for terrible films (check out the Crocodile Dundee 2 poster at the link):

If you want on ongoing supply of great eye-candy and commentary on movie posters, Adrian Curry writes a Movie Poster of the Week feature for Curry is smart about the power of single images, like this one for Black Swan:

And he's equally adept at noticing trends in poster design -- for instance pinpointing the recent vogue of using title text to obscure the faces of the actors:

And here, finally, is the run of posters for the films in the indy film class. I tried to find original posters (not subsequent redesigns). One thing that becomes apparent is that the 80s were as ugly in movie poster design as they were in everything else; the posters for Before Sunrise and Do the Right Thing are easily the worst of the batch, in my eyes. It's funny how few of the posters actually conjure a flavor of the movie they're promoting -- the one for Persona does it, and that's about it (though several of the other posters are still attractive on their own terms).

There's an interesting story behind the poster for Nothing But a Man, an emotionally intense neo-realist look at a black railway worker in the American South. In listening to an interview with the filmmakers, Michael Roemer and Robert Young, I found out they were angry about the poster. Nothing But a Man was a pioneering film with a largely black cast; the filmmakers intended the film to play in black neighborhoods, but the distributors confined it to the art-house circuit of the time (1964). By making the image a drawing against a white background, you could almost not know the movie stars black people -- the poster actually unwittingly recapitulates a monologue delivered by a preacher's wife, played by Abbey Lincoln, late in the film. She mentions to her husband that she has more latitude than he does, in the white-dominated South, because she's not seen as a physical threat to white men. And there her face stands on the poster, whitewashed and also obscuring the masculine (and unmistakably African) features of the actual protagonist of the film, Ivan Dixon.

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