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Movie Poster of the Week: Jacques Rivette’s “The Nun”

A variety of international posters, from the divine to the ridiculous, for the French New Wave director’s 1966 masterpiece.
Three years ago this month, on the day that we learnt of the passing of the great Jacques Rivette, I wrote an article on his posters in which I said, while bemoaning the lack of great Rivette posters, that “his adaptation of Denis Diderot’s La religieuse, starring Anna Karina, seems to have inspired the most varied work (so much in fact that I will save most of it for a later post).” I’ve since also done a piece on Anna Karina’s posters (albeit for her lesser-known films), but it is only now, upon the re-release of a gorgeous restoration of La religieuse at Film Forum in New York, that I am finally fulfilling my promise to delve deep into posters for Rivette’s 1966 masterpiece, better known here as The Nun.
The most iconic poster for the film is René Ferracci’s simple and elegant montage of illustration and photography for the original French release. The design was recreated in a fully illustrated and slightly varied form in—clockwise below from top left—the U.K., Denmark, Italy and Belgium.
In the U.S., the distributor, Altura Films International, went for a wholly different campaign with its quote-heavy “ripped from the headlines” style and its sensational “Banned in France” tagline.
There are a couple of very colorful Italian posters for the film, both painted by Angelo Cessalon, that play up the film’s melodrama and perhaps also its sapphic sub-text.
But my favorite poster for the film has always been this Romanian design—a dark twin to Ferracci’s—the designer of which I’ve never been able to divine.
There are two very different West German designs, one of which, using the same image that Cessalon illustrated, foregrounds Swiss actress Liselotte Pulver—who was a star of German cinema in the 1950s and ’60s—over Anna Karina. The second has another ripped-from-the-headlines approach concentrating more on the film’s controversy than on the quality of the film itself: declaiming “Literati storm Gaullist Bastille,” “Fight for a nun,” and “France indignant about film ban.”
The Czech poster by Karel Machálek is quite bizarre. As far as I can recall there are no bats in the film.
Both the Finnish and Hungarian posters are abstractly stylized, with the Finnish poster throwing in some nudity, which does not feature in the film.
Finally, some other printed material for the film: an ad for the British release which plays up the film’s notoriety in a way that the U.K. quad above did not (apart from its X rating and “adults only” tag); a French book cover for Diderot’s source novel which uses a still of Anna Karina from the film; and a beautiful press kit for the film from the Cannes opening. There are also some superb photos from the Cannes premiere, with Ferracci’s poster in the background, which we can’t show because they are owned by Getty, but which can be seen here, here and here.
And this is the U.S. re-release poster, based on a recent French design.
The Nun runs through January 17 at Film Forum before playing around the country. Don’t miss it.

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