For three weeks in July, New York’s Film Forum is running a stellar series of more than 40 1970s New York-set films. As soon as I heard about the program I wanted to do a poster article on it, given that the 1970s was a heyday for American poster design. However, when I started to look at the posters I realized that many of them were so well known that rehashing their posters wasn’t that interesting. But in my search I started to notice how many of the films had Polish counterparts. It is interesting that so many of these American productions were released in Poland and it may have had a lot to do with the counter-cultural, anti-establishment bent of most of the films.
While poster design in the U.S. had moved quite decisively from illustration to photography-based in the late 60s, Polish poster art was still mostly drawn and painted in the 1970s. There are a couple of exceptions here but the photos are collaged or posterized in a way that is quite different from the way they would be used in the U.S.
Another interesting note is that very few of the posters make use of New York signifiers, with the obvious exception of the Statue of Liberty for Escape from New York, and a silhouetted skyline for Manhattan (notably the two films with the most New York-specific titles). Otherwise the posters seen here are typically idiosyncratic, eccentric, beautiful, alluring, occasionally baffling and, with the possible exception of Serpico, always strikingly unlike their American counterparts. This selection also feels like a tour of great Polish poster art in the 70s, with most of the major artists represented: Jakub Erol, Wiktor Gorka, Eryk Lipinski, Andrzej Klimowski, Jan Mlodozeniec, Andrzej Pagowski, Waldemar Swierzy, Wieslaw Walkuski and more. It seems as if every major designer got a crack at at least one of these challenging, thrilling films.
See New York in the 70s at Film Forum from July 5 to 27.
Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions.