Looking through the posters for the films of Peter Bogdanovich, who died last week at the age of 82, it is clear that the best posters for his films were from 1970s Poland. This will be no surprise to readers of this column. While 1970s movie poster design in America was doing some interesting things with type size and negative space, most studio poster design by that time was photography-based. Some of Bogdanovich’s US posters combined photography and graphics in interesting ways (see these for What’s Up, Doc? and The Last Picture Show) but they can’t compare to the quirky, colorful and arresting posters created by Polish masters like Jerzy Flisak, Eryk Lipinski, Jan Mlodozeniec, and Maria Ihnatowicz. To be fair, I wouldn’t say the Polish posters sell the films better than their American counterparts—which benefit from their star power—but as works of art, as something you might want to hang on your wall, they are streets ahead.
Bogdanovich was born in New York to an Austrian Jewish mother and a Serbian father who escaped Europe on the eve of World War II, just two months before he was born, and he grew up fluent in Serbian. It is therefore fitting that the best posters for his films are Eastern European. I’ve also included a Hungarian Last Picture Show and a Czech What’s Up, Doc? by the great Zdeněk Ziegler for good measure.