A couple of weeks ago, I interviewed Nathan Gelgud, an artist who has brought a wry comic book charm to the world of cinephilia. It seemed only natural that I should find out more about the art that has influenced him and so I asked him to select his personal top ten favorite movie posters. He was more than up for the challenge and decided to narrow the field to illustrated posters, which makes perfect sense. Here are his ten favorites, in no special order.
1. (Above) US one sheet for Five on the Black Hand Side (Oscar Williams, USA, 1973). Artist: Jack Davis.
I love all the accouterments on the main figure—the hat, the cigar, the umbrella, suitcase, those things that go over the shoes. But even better is the way Davis has arranged all the characters around him, the way the jumping guy’s arm joins with the guy being pulled by his tie to make the side of the triangle that’s cut out around the central figure. The whole thing evokes chaos but he’s working really hard at clarity.
2. French poster for Peppermint Soda (Diane Kurys, France, 1977). Artist: Floc’h.
I first saw Floc’h’s work on the poster he did for Deconstructing Harry, which I love, but I also like this a lot because it looks like a comic cover, and I love the way he’s used the photographs across the bottom so it's a little more than just one image. All the action of the schoolmates in the back is really good, too, and I like the way he drew the hair on the three main girls.
3. French grande for Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 1964). Artist: Georges Kerfyser.
I was waiting in the concession line at the New Beverly and was standing in front of this poster, staring at it without really looking at it. Just staring into space, really, and then my eyes shifted focus onto the poster and I realized that two of the three main figures at the top are wearing opaque black masks. It seems to me that would be really hard to get right, but it’s perfect.
4. French grande for The Devil, Probably (Robert Bresson, France, 1977). Artist: Raymond Savignac.
I love the cartoon feel of this one, all that brave white space, the figure stiff but also maybe stumbling. Savignac also did posters for Bresson’s L’argent and Lancelot du lac. We might think of Bresson as a sort of stoic or humorless director, but Savignac flips that with his comic posters.
5. French B1 poster for Between Heaven and Earth (Marion Hänsel, France, 1992). Artist: Jean-Michel Folon.
Folon also did terrific posters for Purple Rose of Cairo and Stalker, but those are both more figurative. Isn’t this so pleasant to look at? I also like that it tells you almost nothing about the movie. I looked up the movie a few days ago and I’ve already forgotten what it was.
6. 2010s rep screening poster for What’s Up Doc (Peter Bogdanovich, USA, 1972). Artist: Jeff Cashvan.
Cashvan is one of the curators behind The Deuce screenings at Nighthawk Cinema, which he's been doing for years. He screens movies that showed at old Times Square theaters, and makes a one-off original poster for every screening, featuring historically accurate Times Square marquees of where the movie played. There’s so much love in his work, and look at that great pattern he put behind O’Neal and Babs. Also, Cashvan enters everyone who comes to the movie at the Nighthawk in a raffle, and someone walks home with a Cashvan original every month. I wish everyone who loved movies loved them the way that he does.
7. 2010s rep screening poster for Rita, Sue and Bob Too! (Alan Clarke, UK, 1986). Artist: Chris Jacobson.
Jacobson spent a few years doing one of a kind posters for screenings at Cinema Nolita, and he now co-curates a semi-regular weekly movie night with Jeff Cashvan (of The Deuce series) at KGB. I love the poses (Bob’s right foot) and subtle facial expressions of everyone in his Rita, Sue & Bob Too poster. The lettering is great, and the way the pink shirt and blue tie really come across against all the white clothes. He's done the grass like tiny mountains, making the figures seem, possibly, enormous--his work is really celebratory, and so the way the people might be giants against a mountainous landscape totally works. Jacobson makes an effort to have us think he doesn't care about what he's doing, with his unfussy line style and the cheap paper he works on, but if you ever get a chance to see all the posters he’s done, they're all full of imagination and fidelity to the movies’ tone and subject. More than any other movie posters, his always make me excited to see the movie. Thanks to Michael Mosley, owner of the now-defunct Cinema Nolita, for providing photos of Jacobson's work.
8. Polish poster for Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, USA, 1985). Artist: Mieczyslaw Wasilewski.
“Can you make us a poster for this movie Back to the Future?” “What's it about?” “Well, there’s this car—” “That’s enough. Got it.”
9. Japanese STB tatekan poster for Dodes’ka-den (Akira Kurosawa, Japan, 1970). Artist: Akira Kurosawa.
Look how all the characters are drawn in a slightly different style, with different colors. Look at the long, tall shape of the poster. Look at the way the central figure is walking down the bright yellow strip. I love the idea of putting as many characters as you can onto a poster. It says something about movies, about how we’re not necessarily watching a single story, or a protagonist or an idea, we’re watching people.
10. French 1980s re-release grande for The Producers (Mel Brooks, USA, 1967). Artist: Joineau Bourduge.
I found this one by looking around on the Posteritati site, and it turns out Bourduge also did the [non-illustrated] Small Change poster that inspired the one I did for Film Desk. His great hand-drawn lettering gives it away. Bourduge has done a lot of poster work, but as far as I can tell, not that many that are mostly drawn, which is a shame, because this is just great.