Wear it With Pride has just opened up a new exhibit that I swear is custom-made for me. Showing earlier this year in London and just opened in Barcelona, Now Showing displays the work of several designers comissioned to create new posters for old films. The tagline for the show is “Exploring the ‘Lost Art’ of the Film Poster.” While I don’t think the film poster as ‘art’ was never really lost in the first place (commercially there’s been a decline, but there were plenty of bad film posters way back when, too), the title is really a play on words, as though these new works are somehow lost posters only just rediscovered.
It turns out having fun with the previously known images that surround old films really inspired these designers, as some of the work is really damn good–either paying homage to various design periods in time, or using completely contemporary methods to re-present the film in an entirely new mode. These aren’t your traditional film posters, full of little credits, following a reasonably consistent set of guidelines set-up to market a film. This is work done by contemporary artists who know their films–a company like Criterion couldn’t go wrong in licensing some of this stuff if they’re releasing any of the featured films in the future.
Check out this Five Easy Pieces poster as an example. The title of the film is a reference to Jack Nicholson’s unchosen career as a pianist, and his giving up of an upper crust, artistic direction in life in exchange for a conscious embrace of the working class American world of menial jobs, cheap diners and bowling alleys. The brilliant thing is that the poster evokes the very records Nicholson’s character would have been listening to as a child, back when he prepared his “five easy pieces” for a (unseen in the film) recital. Take a look at the recently released and quite excellent Classique for an idea of a few quality classical music LP covers, and then look at the poster again. It’s clearly done by someone who knows and loves the film enough to put that level of work into it.
My other favourite is this poster of Fellini’s 8 1/2. Not only is it one of the best films ever made, but the Italian film posters of the 1950s and 60s are some of the best examples of the form, anywhere. Redoing any of them is a tall order, and artist Fons Schiedon does a killer job here. Conceptually smart and beautiful to look at, it’s one of the best on display.