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Posterized September 2018: ‘Mandy,’ ‘The Sisters Brothers,’ ‘Colette,’ and More

Written by on September 5, 2018 

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably.

Festival season is upon with Venice and Telluride in full swing and TIFF just days away. I always contemplate making September into a festival poster piece only to discover there’s no point when so many of the films released are playing at those festivals anyway. Six of the sixteen movies below will be screening in Toronto. And that’s without including The Predator (September 14), Museo (limited September 14), and Fahrenheit 11/9 (limited September 21).

The added bonus to this fact: good posters.

The borderline

This main sheet for Life Itself (September 21) is not necessarily one of those “good” ones. InSync Plus pretty much takes three stills, stacks them up, and places text where it fits. The idea of having the title repeat is interesting, but none of the three are the same size to make it appear like these images were interchangeable. This isn’t a slot machine scenario.

The firm’s character sheets are much better if only because they have a sense of drama and scene. The title and cast list are unobtrusive and the subject itself generally interesting enough to grab some attention. I only wish they didn’t feel the need to put one of the others in the background of each. Having a blurred Olivia Wilde and Oscar Isaac behind Olivia Cooke and whoever’s leather-jacketed back with Cooke located behind Wilde/Isaac is tacky.

Going back to the headline of this section, the poster for Matangi/Maya/MIA (limited September 28) uses separation of imagery much better. Rather than just multiple images butted against each other, the designer takes the idea of a wall and expands its green field to be negative space with which to superimpose more photos atop. It creates a clear division while also ensuring both sides complement each other.

I love the plane images to coincide with M.I.A.’s name too. You have the helicopter for Sri Lanka, the jet that took her to London/America, and ultimately the “paper plane” of one of her most iconic songs. And it’s a captivating juxtaposition that works visually to draw our eyes down from top to bottom when reading the title regardless of our knowledge of their meaning.

LA’s Night School (September 28) takes the concept even further by allowing a prop to create the separation in a real world situation. They could have just place Kevin Hart and Tiffany Haddish next to each other in front of those lockers, but that wouldn’t have been as memorable as using them to tell a story. Hart is the “student” in this dynamic and therefore stuck in the locker. Haddish is the “teacher” and thus outside the door with a look of disparagement. It may not excite aesthetically or reinvent the wheel, but it’s effective in presenting its visual message.

If you want to see what creativity can do with borderlines, however, look no further than Concept Arts’ The Nun (September 7). Here we have full integration of images whether it’s alluding to Taissa Farmiga being the nun in question or simply showing how it has infiltrated her mind for optimal terror. The black versus white contrast pops and the burn marks along the edge of the rip really amplify this idea of Heaven versus Hell. And the reversed “N” in the title is an added bonus of palindrome symmetry.

You know you knocked the concept out of the park when something this simple and stark can conjure so much more dread than a sheet built to embody dark horror like eclipse’s work. Exorcist homage or not, the atmosphere here is as fake as the scene created.

Collaged overlays

The Refinery’s Colette (limited September 21) isn’t anything new (see Creative Partnership’s Tulip Fever for recent period-set, washed-out color and texture), but it works. We get the star’s face from and center, the specially formed signature title below, and a nice clean all-caps sans serif font to work against the softness of the rest. The way the layers are integrated together is great too with the floral pattern seen in her hair but not her face. Everything has a dream-like quality as a result and yet the warm reds lend a touch of drama to go along with the tagline that “history is about to change” rather than leave things as delicate fluff.

Andrew Bannister’s I Am Not a Witch (limited September 7) takes the collage portion of the headline to heart by ignoring any desire for translucency in order to keep things strictly as scrapbook. All these images are cutout and pasted atop each other with a fantastic flair for paint outlines around them that look like fire. The red fields for text are clearly ripped into shape next to the contours of Maggie Mulubwa’s head.

It’s busy but legible thanks to the yellow/orange title and quotes being stuck to those dark red sections as opposed to the competing colors of the images below. Instead we get to find faces in those photos, moving us closer to see what else we might be missing.

I Think We’re Alone Now (limited September 14) by Champ & Pepper Inc. goes for full illustration to allow artist Blair Shedd freedom to build his image without a need to conform to what’s at his disposal. So rather than merge portraits with backgrounds or cut and paste existing promotional materials, he designs around the concept with his own specific style. His comic book sensibilities come through with graphic hair whether Peter Dinklage’s subtle highlights or Elle Fanning’s geometric flames. Contrast it with detailed gradient work on faces and minimalist line work on the goldfish and road scene and you get a memorable piece of original art.

It’s weird that Champ & Pepper Inc. would squish the director’s name under the large title, but otherwise the text block works to highlight the film’s selling points. The typography’s coloring helps the whole from feeling like two disparate entities—not that it’s a bad thing to simply slap a label underneath a canvas.

Mandy (limited September 14) conversely uses its painting for the poster’s canvas rather than forcing it to exist on its own. That’s easier in this case because of the way it is constructed. The actors form a triangle at the center for cosmic swirls of dark mood lighting to surround it as prime real estate for text. I think Nicolas Cage and Andrea Riseborough’s names are too close to be read separately and perhaps too big to let the title standout, but I do like the whole’s aesthetic. It looks like a heavy metal progressive rock album cover and that’s the perfect tone for what the film delivers.

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