I recently worked with one of my favorite movie poster artists, Akiko Stehrenberger, on a poster for Louis Garrel’s A Faithful Man
which, with its lipstick imprints on Garrel’s face, paid accidental homage to the original poster for François Truffaut’s Stolen Kisses
. It was Garrel himself who pointed this out—Akiko had never seen the Truffaut poster before and I’d forgotten it—which sent me down a rabbit hole searching for Stolen Kisses
posters, of which, it turns out, there is a remarkable variety.
premiered at the Avignon Film Festival on August 14, 1968 and opened in New York on March 3, 1969, almost ten years after Truffaut’s debut, The 400 Blows
, had premiered at Cannes. Stolen Kisses
continued the story of 400 Blows
’ charming reprobate Antoine Doinel, now all grown up and working as a private detective.
The original French poster, featuring an illustration of Jean-Pierre Léaud as Doinel, was designed by the great New Wave designer René Ferracci, who also created an alternate (“Modele B”) design featuring Doinel’s love interest Christine Darbob (played by Claude Jade). The two posters make a clever match. What is surprising about both of them is that they feature the Eiffel Tower and Montmartre in the background: signifiers that are usually used by foreign distributors to stress a film’s Paris setting, but which are less expected in a French poster for a French film.
The Belgian poster combines Léaud and Jade in an oddly unromantic clinch, and makes the Parisian landmarks even more prominent. But it retains Ferracci’s lovely script title.
But maybe one reason I’d forgotten the French design is that the American design is so completely different. Eschewing not only Parisian landmarks but also any hint of Doinel/Léaud himself, the very modern poster feels like a Gips-Frankfurt design: it is dramatic and minimalist and photo-centric in the style of their Rosemary’s Baby or Downhill Racer posters. And the small sans serif title treatment could not be more different from the curlicues of Ferracci’s script.
That same nose and lips was used, in illustrated form, in the Spanish and Argentinian posters. The Spanish design by Enrique Mataix gets the best of both worlds by incorporating the image of Doinel and the Parisian skyline from Ferracci’s poster.
The Cuban and German posters push the image of the lips in more stylized directions: nearly abstracted in René Azcuy’s Cuban silkscreen and emphasizing the halftone dots in the extreme close-up of the German design.
The Italian posters by Tino Avelli take the film in a whole new Swinging Sixties direction while incorporating elements from the previous designs.
While the UK quad by Peter Strausfeld is charmingly chaste.
Also giving equal space to Léaud and Jade, the gorgeous Japanese poster really ups the ante on the Paris landmarks.
The Danish poster has an interesting collage style.
Unusually, the Czech (by Karel Machalek) and Polish (by Maciej Zbikowski) posters are rather disappointing. While striking designs in their own right, both seem to be for completely different films.
My favorite discovery however would have to be this extraordinary Hungarian design by András Márté. As far as I can tell this is the only one of these posters that references The 400 Blows. The tagline says “The ‘Four Hundred Blows’ Antoine on the Verge of Adulthood.” The face that none of the others do makes you wonder if the earlier film’s reputation in 1969 was not what it is today. It would seem inconceivable now to advertise the follow-up to a beloved classic without referencing the original.
Finally here’s the New York Times ad for the film’s U.S. premiere from March 2, 1969, sharing space with Cassavetes Faces, Boorman’s Hell in the Pacific and Bondarchuk’s epic War and Peace (which was recently revived by Janus Films). It was obviously Oscar season and six weeks later Stolen Kisses would lose the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film to War and Peace. (Other nominees were Forman’s The Fireman’s Ball and the less-well-remembered Hungarian and Italian submissions: Zoltán Fábri’s The Boys of Paul Street and Mario Monicelli’s The Girl with the Pistol.)