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Posterized July 2017: ‘Dunkirk,’ ‘A Ghost Story,’ ‘Atomic Blonde,’ and More

Written by on July 2, 2017 

Critics are saying …

Critic blurbs have been a tried and true way to drum up excitement for films that may not have the type of exposure a big Hollywood blockbuster would. In recent years some “critic-proof” work has even resorted to placing social media reactions on their marketing material—the decision to do whatever is necessary to create positive buzz winning out over letting the title and/or stars sell it alone.

A movie like The Untamed (limited July 21) is a perfect candidate for using earned acclaim. It’s a Spanish-language, Mexican production that hasn’t really received a massive push (and most likely won’t hit many cities outside of big cinematic hubs). So we need to hear something about what it could be from a source other than the PR-team.

The image used of a woman on a mattress inside a darkened, non-descript room is captivating enough to give us pause, but coupling it with the words “Sci-fi sexual drama” provides context to really dig in and take note. I may have shrunk the title a bit and pushed the image down to utilize a more expansive white space at top for added claustrophobic atmosphere, but that’s just me.

Menashe (limited July 28) looks to create its buzz with more subtlety. Rather than highlight the quotes at the top center, the design firm decides to integrate them into the rest of the design. It bisects the frame to be image on left, text on right. The font is smaller so as not to overshadow the title, but its bright and legible enough to pop above the credit box at bottom. There’s nothing exciting about this sheet, but it does supply the information we need to have an idea of what to expect.

For my money Outer Arc‘s poster before the film was bought by A24 does a much better job at cultivating intrigue, though. It uses a tag to punch up qualities that the over-saturated image delivers from the heavens. The simple inclusion of a boy to give the man purpose instead of giving him a static portrait adds a lot too. Here’s a story whereas the previous example was literal advertisement.

Leroy and Rose looks to avoid this notion of two posters with individual strengths the other doesn’t possess on Lady Macbeth (limited July 14). Yes they give the critic quotes half of the page with bold white to scream out at us, but they don’t sacrifice the overall visual aesthetic to do so. This sheet may be a portrait of sorts like Menashe, but it also gives its subject character, setting, and depth (the latter thanks to some effective typography integrating words with image). And it adds drama by creating that extra white space I wanted with The Untamed above and bright color dictating focus below.

This was a major step forward beyond the selection at right even though the latter contains half as much information. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the look its grain provides better than the glossy sheen above, it’s just less dynamic on the whole. The font used for the sole critic quote is very out-of-place, the title seems awkwardly squished together, and the previous sense of power through scale is replaced by unearned mystery. While pretty, it’s nowhere near as impactful.

Nobody would say the same about LA’s Atomic Blonde (July 28), though. Here’s a wide release (albeit from a smaller studio in Focus Features) that might not need critic validation, but why not use it if it’s there? I feel like I should hate this poster because it’s so busy, but the designers did a wonderful job retaining a level of coherence despite that chaos. They punched up certain words so we can read them without the rest, used color to highlight exactly what’s paramount to absorb, and let the action speak for itself visually with an untouched still. The image describes the text and vice versa.

There’s something comforting about this down and dirty, stripped down informational vehicle devoid of bells or whistles. That’s how confident the studio is in the content—they don’t need to show us anything that we wouldn’t also see in the theater. This truth doesn’t mean BOND and The Posterhouse‘s more stylish examples are unsuccessful, though. They just want to focus on the attitude of the film’s character rather than the excitement of its action. They’re selling sex and celebrity instead of choreography and expertise. Hey, whatever works.


Headturners

Ok, so the Landline (limited July 21) poster isn’t a head-turner. I will concede that point. What it is, however, is fun. The sans serif font of the title is both sharp and smooth, bold and playful. The cord exiting out of the first “L” proves to be a goofy visual pun that helps move our eye down the page. And I love the tag: “1995. When people were harder to reach.”

Better than the tag itself is its marriage with the image and the image’s familiarity to today. Just look at this cast of funny people staring blindly out into space, ignoring all others for the paper, or trying real hard to see something that may not be there. This idea of the 90s having “difficult” communication comes from its world being without cellphones. But when I look at this poster I think about the last time I had dinner at my parents: TV on, fork in one hand, and smartphone in the other. In some respects we were much easier to reach back then.

I’m honestly not so sure P+A‘s A Ghost Story (limited July 7) is a head-turner either, but it is effective. If anything it’s a head-retainer because the low contrast black sucks you in after you look its way. I really like how it isn’t the usual deep saturation photography used in pieces like this because the gray lets the detail of the stars lend an unforeseen texture to the piece. It provides an otherworldly feel steeped in adventure and infinite possibilities, something that renders the ghost a welcoming presence rather than a specter of horror.

It’s a simple design with carefully positioned title block bright against the muted whole, the ghost tactile and believable despite just being a sheet, and the use of critic quote and credit box as non-imperative augmentation—reading them adds something, but ignoring them loses nothing. It sticks with you without wowing you and frankly that’s the better outcome of the two.

The same can be said about Brigsby Bear (limited July 28), although with a very different effect. This is a head-turner because it’s impossible to catch a glimpse of it with the corner of your eye and simply walk away. It demands to be seen with its play on a school photo entertaining on multiple levels—the aesthetic alone and the fact that its orchestration would have us believe the man and bear are one and the same.

Its comedic tone is off-kilter eccentric, the bear itself more akin to an animatronic Show Biz Pizza Place character than the animal itself. And that’s all we have to go on. There is no director name or actors. There’s nothing but the inherent weirdness of its content. You either want to find out what it’s about or hope to forget you ever saw it. Unfortunately success at the latter will probably prove impossible.

By contrast you probably could scrub the final sheet from your mind. It is no less odd; it just uses more conventional movie poster techniques. The Méliès-esque homage is interesting, but it being blurry prevents me from focusing on it as intently as I probably should. And the decision to cover the man and bear in shadow loses the WTF appeal of the previous teaser unleashing them upon us. It makes you scratch your head, but perhaps not hard enough to keep scratching upon walking away.

Out of all the posters this month, though, none are better artistically than Brandon Schaefer‘s Escapes (limited July 26). From the unforgettable imagery (Medusa curls are apparently big in the industry with Lo an Behold last year possessing a similar look), non-mainstream font selection, and conformity-rejected composition (credit box at top and right justified, title off-center, image unencumbered by text or collage), this piece is everything the one-sheets above are not.

We get low contrast black to highlight the grainy texture. We get the documentary’s subject, recognizable and yet hidden so the abstract can infer upon his identity as well as \ literal representation. And we aren’t distracted by rampant superfluity—the red title glows but feels as though it’s on even footing with the imagery below. There’s no visual warfare, our eyes effortlessly flowing through the snaking filmstrip and out from the center to see what’s beyond.

It’s easy to forget that art within commercialization. Thankfully examples like this exist to remind us.

What is your favorite July release poster? What could have used a rework?

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