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Movie Poster of the Week: “On the Bowery”

A gorgeous new poster for Milestone Films’ release of the restoration of Lionel Rogosin’s 1957 documentary On the Bowery, which opens on September 17 at Film Forum. Part-verité, part staged drama, On the Bowery chronicles three days in the life of real-life war veteran Ray Salyer who has wound up on New York’s infamous skid row and is sinking fast. Rogosin spent four months shooting in bars and flop houses and under the El with real Bowery denizens, improvising a story around them.

I love the depth of field in the poster. The printed version especially sucks you into its damaged world. According to Anthony Deen, son of assistant cameraman Darwin Deen, this particular shot was set up by covering up the camera with bottles so that the people at the bar would feel comfortable and not pay attention to it.

It’s a beautiful still, but it’s the typography that really makes the poster for me. It was designed by Scott Meola, one half of the New York design team Simplissimus, who has designed a number of terrific film posters over the past few years as well as luscious DVD packaging for Benten, Zeitgeist and Milestone (especially notable is his I Am Cuba cigar box). Some of his recent poster work can be seen below.

As for Ray Salyer: according to Milestone, he was offered Hollywood roles after the success of On the Bowery (which won Best Documentary at Venice and was nominated for an Oscar) but "one night he just hopped a train and was never heard from again. His fate is one of the great mysteries of cinema."

For more on the film read Nick Pinkerton's excellent 2007 piece in Reverse Shot.

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