If any film can lay claim to having inspired the most beautiful promotional art over the years, Fritz Lang’s 1927 Metropolis must be a very strong contender. The original German three-sheet poster designed by Heinz Schulz-Neudamm was a highlight of the Museum of Modern Art’s first ever exhibition of movie posters in 1960 (I wrote about the exhibition for Issue #0 the of Notebook magazine) and now holds the record for the most expensive movie poster ever sold at auction. (Rumor has it that Leonardo DiCaprio owns one of the four existing copies while another can currently be seen on display at MoMA). I’ve written about Boris Bilinsky’s stunning French poster for the film in the past. And then you have beautiful contemporary Mondo posters by the likes of Kilian Eng and William Stout.
But the trove of exquisite Metropolis art was expanded recently when two very rare Japanese chirashis and a program book came up for auction at Heritage. These gorgeous 7" x 10" flyers and the accompanying 12-page booklet were made for the 1929 Japanese release of the film. With their Deco designs, rich colors and modernist lettering they are truly lovely. One only wishes that they came in poster size.
The flyers are unsigned, but according to Hidenori Okada of the National Film Archive of Japan, the booklet was designed and illustrated by Shuji Kawamura who signed himself “Sewge” here. “Kawamura belonged to Shochiku-za Theatre in Osaka at that time. Shochiku-za Theatre existed in five cities in Japan, but Shochiku-za Osaka (built in 1923) is famous in Japan’s modern design history for their team of brilliant designers led by Shinkichi Yamada. Kawamura later became known as a book designer.”
The auction runs until April 23 in case you’re interested in snapping these up.