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Posterized March 2014: ‘Noah’, ‘Nymphomaniac,’ ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ ‘Enemy’ & More

Written by on March 3, 2014 

Photos are overrated

The heading of this section is a bit misleading since two of the four do utilize photography, but they don’t do so in the way you’d normally assume movie poster designers would.

Mondo’s sheet (illustrated by Kilian Eng) for Jodorowsky’s Dune (limited March 7) is not one of these. No, its elaborately constructed, geometrically compartmentalized design is drawn to look like storyboards you’ll probably be seeing in the film. There are sandworms, a gaudy wardrobe, space, and statues to whet your appetite for the marvels of one of cinema’s forgotten projects about to be digested. This is how such a project should be represented, but a couple other iterations had to be made before acquiring the following to do so.

First up is the festival illustration of the aforementioned storyboards being lost in the sands on Dune—a comic strip cartoon that sadly doesn’t do the content enough justice. On the flipside is Cardinal Communications USA’s packet of materials clipped together and floating in space that does way too much. There’s a ton of quotes, a Star Wars crawl, and cropped photos hidden by a rendering of a space ship surely to have been used in Jodorowsky’s unmade adaptation. It does give you a glimpse of actual material, but it isn’t as eye-catching as Eng’s.

Looking at the poster P+A put together for Jason Bateman’s directorial debut Bad Words (open March 14) small may have you thinking, “What’s this guy talking about photos not being used as photos should?” Well, you definitely have to click on it to see an enlarged version to witness the gorgeous moiré pattern that’s been enlarged above the image it forms. I love the bare-bones, pop art aesthetic it gives off as well as its feeling of being a copy (since the pattern is generally found when scanning a printed image without any descreening filters to blur it).

It fits the movie nicely, giving us this down and dirty shot of a man about to let loose with the f-word on one of his many tirades throughout. He is a coarse character with a grudge and until the film’s end uncovers his motives he must remain so. Not even little Rohan Chand can polish those dots into a smooth image of dignity.

The Refinery looks to play on the themes of their client Grand Piano (limited March 7) as well by going retro with what reminds me of Saul Bass’ unsettling advert for The Shining. It has an old school vibe with that wide border, the tall bold types, and a charcoal drawing allowing its roughness to shine. Tiny little Elijah Wood at the top may be too pristine a photo to truly complement everything else happening, but it’s a small detail on an otherwise unique piece. It’s a nice sibling to P+A/Mojo’s The American.

The firm wasn’t done with that, though, as they also give us an even more stunning collage of piano keys, actors, and time in a spiral falling through the depths of itself at the center of the page. The use of red is just the right hue to pop against the black and the high-contrast shadows cast a mysterious look at the psychological suspense. This film must be huge on inspiration because the Spanish sheet by ImageMassive is just as foreboding and minimalist. I love the piano motif usurping the title’s font.

It’s another film, however, that wins the month for me that goes by the name of Enemy (limited March 14). A24 has become the studio to watch hot-on-the-heels of Annapurna Pictures and they’ve found a brilliant stable of artists to create iconic imagery. This illustrative version with blank faces fading into the yellow is straight up weird in an old hardcover book from my elementary school library kind of way that fascinates the hell out of me. Even the red of the name intrigues considering it isn’t bright enough to pop, but surely done so intentionally.

And it might only be the second best poster for the movie once you look at the international sheet with Jake Gyllenhaal’s head becoming a cityscape traversed by a giant monster spider. What? It may be spoilery as a result, but the imagery is too good to hide.

Focus on me

The designer on It Felt Like Love (limited March 21) decided to go right for the emotional drama by zooming into the person feeling it. It’s a captivating crop that draws you straight into the actress’ eye looking slightly off the page. You can relate to the sense of shy embarrassment as she sneaks a peek over at the object of her affection, seeing without necessarily being seen. And you know that if eyes lock she’ll be turning her head back sharply to pretend she wasn’t looking at all.

The white text is nicely juxtaposed against the blurred, non-descript background as the one true highlight besides the glare of her nose. It’s so much better than the film’s other poster trying to get away with pink atop too many different hues. One could see this as the precursor before distilling the scene of girl and boy into the secretive glance binding them so our focus can be on her affection and nothing else.

For Roger Michell‘s Le Week-End (limited March 14), there is even less confusion as to what we should give our attention. A minimalist scene of Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan in a frivolous dance against a graphic representation of the Eiffel Tower contains a startling amount of movement for being two cutout images laid atop one another. The French language title—longer and more obvious considering the original’s lack of translation actually helped share its setting with an English audience where it wouldn’t with native speakers—is broken up to balance the actors and not simple float away into the white canvas.

It’s a lovely image that does so much more than its photo-heavy counterparts either putting us in the Paris skyline or at least on an ornate sofa to declare they’ve arrived. The scene of Broadbent kissing Duncan’s hand does thankfully retain the playful laughter of the French one, though, something the over-powering text and oppressive orange fails to do in the other. Less is most definitely more when you can ensure an audience sees exactly what you want.

This is the rule that The Einstein Couple uses for their abstract interpretation of sex in Nymphomaniac: Volume I (limited March 21), stripping down the orgasmic faces of an earlier series for the complete story to its piercingly painful desire and/or aftermath of abuse. Just having the name set in close proximity with a fishing lure conjures nightmarish thoughts; the tag “Forget About Love” making you wonder if some sadistic character may in fact use such a tool to torture and/or arouse his subject. And centering it directly under the vaginal parentheses of the title only makes me squirm to think about someone yanking the line up, catching its mark on the way.

Last but certainly not least is The Grand Budapest Hotel (limited March 7) and its desire to elicit a more playful, comic atmosphere than anything made by Lars von Trier would. Is it a small-scale model? A painting? A combination of both? Whatever medium is used to construct this grandiose hotel, you know it is for a Wes Anderson film without reading any of the names present. It’s blatant artifice is a trademark of his marketing campaigns and a direct cousin to those P+A crafted for his last work, Moonrise Kingdom.

The second design tries to maintain the same feel but in my mind fails thanks to the myriad actors it attempts to introduce. Besides newcomer Tony Revolori, we know what faces go with the names the first poster provides; we don’t need to see them in their goofy outfits, especially in such a stale, static way as this. I give credit to keeping it flavored “hotel”—making each portrait a key tag is inspired—but it’s simply too much unnecessary information.

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

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