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Movie Poster of the Week: “Red Desert”

A collection of designs from around the world for Antonioni’s first film in color.

Winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, 47 years ago this weekend, Antonioni's Red Desert is being revived in a new print at Brooklyn's BAM Cinematek through Sunday. Red Desert is one of my all-time favorite films, but more than anything it is a film I like to visit, to step inside. It is a film of spaces and structures and follies that I want to return to every few years. I've often thought that were I an eccentric billionaire my Neverland Ranch would be a Red Desert theme park replicating all the locations from the film: the cavernous factory with its billowing explosions of steam; the little wooden shack by the dock with the red walls (orgies optional); the fog-filled pier; the modernist apartment with the horizontal picture windows overlooking hulking container ships (and that Meccano robot of course); the rows of giant blue glass bottles; the chimneys with their yellow plumes of smoke; that harness chair, for kicks, that lifts Richard Harris onto the ship's deck; and, of course, since who could live in all that industrial blight, the paradisical island with its perfect beaches in the story-within-the-story.

All of which makes the posters for Red Desert slightly disappointing, for none of them use any of the film's environments, nor, beyond the red walls of the shack, any of the bursts of color that make the film (Antonioni's first in color) so unique. Almost all of the posters feature a russet-haired Monica Vitti staring down the viewer, and who can really complain about that. My favorite by far is the German illustrated version above which isolates Monica in all her anguished glory. Below, in descending order, are the Italian poster—which the German painting is based on—the French, Belgian and Japanese posters, another Italian design, a Hungarian, and finally the Polish poster by Witold Janowski. Even that one, though striking, by the standards of Polish design is uncharacteristically simple and unadventurous.

One of my favorite pieces of Red Desert memorabilia is this ad, below, courtesy of italiangerry's Flickr collection, for the film's first run at the Columbus Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island. 

I can find absolutely nothing about Naked in the Deep, the film that was playing with Red Desert. Given the showtimes it must have been less than 30 minutes long. If anyone knows anything about it let me know.

Adrian, I don’t think I should be surprised, but this is about the first time you’ve posted images that are all very similar. Monica dominates every one of them, as well she should. Naked in the Deep sounds like something that was retitled with a more risque title to bring in the “raincoat” crowd.
Pierre, indeed, they are what my mother would call much of a muchness. But the German poster is by far my favorite. As for Naked in the Deep you are probably right. Or it was just thirty minutes of footage of scantily-clad scuba divers.
“Aqua nymphs defying death! The actual birth of turtles and their struggle to survive! Strange and terrifying sights!” I’m not sure what any of this means, but apparently Naked in the Deep won the Gondola Award at the Venice Film Festival. (No, I don’t know it either.)

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