Movie Poster of the Week: The Early Films of Ken Loach

The best international posters for the first three films by Britain’s thorny national treasure.
Adrian Curry
Above: US one sheet for Kes (Ken Loach, UK, 1969).
With Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You opening in the U.S. next week, I thought it would be as good as time as ever to look back over the posters for one of Britain’s greatest living filmmakers. Starting in 1965 with a celebrated series of docudramas for the BBC, Loach, now 83, has been making films for over half a century and has won the Palme d’Or not once but twice. Between Poor Cow in 1967 and Sorry We Missed You in 2019 he has directed 25 feature films, mostly concerned with the lives and labors of the British working class. But the problem with going through Loach’s impressive filmography in posters is that, for the most part, the posters for his later films just aren’t that interesting. There is something about Loach’s urgent, low-key social realism that doesn’t really lend itself to particularly interesting design. That said, the posters for Loach’s first three films are a significant exception to that rule. These were the films that made Ken Loach’s name, though it was ”Kenneth” Loach back then. His debut, Poor Cow, was a surprise box office success, not just in the U.K. but in the U.S. and all over Europe too, and there are numerous interesting posters for that film, in a wild variety of styles. So here below are the best posters for Poor Cow (starting with my very favorite, the German design by Fritz Fischer), his masterpiece Kes (1969) and his third feature Family Life (1971).
Above: German poster for Poor Cow. Designer: Fritz Fischer.
Above: UK poster for Poor Cow.
Above: Alternative UK poster for Poor Cow with an alternative title. It looks as if the film may have been intended to be released as No Tears for Joy (it was released in France as Pas de larmes pour Joy) and that the big blocky letters of “Poor Cow” were placed directly over that title to cover it up.
Above: UK double crown posters for Poor Cow.
Above: UK quad poster for Poor Cow.
Above: Australian poster for Poor Cow.
Above: US one sheet for Poor Cow.
Above: Polish poster for Poor Cow. Designer: Jan Mlodozeniec. The Polish title translates as “Waiting for Life.”
Above: Czech poster for Poor Cow. Designer: Vladimír Václav Paleček. The Czech title translates as “Bad Luck on High Heels.”
Above: Japanese poster for Poor Cow.
Above: Original UK quad for Kes.
Above: Alternative UK quad for Kes, perhaps printed after the initial rave reviews.
Above: Polish poster for Kes. Designer Zygmunt Bobrowski.
Above: French poster for Kes. Designer Jouineau Bourduge.
Above: UK quad for Family Life. Art by Peter Strausfeld.
Above: UK one sheet for Family Life.
Above: Italian poster for Family Life. Art by Renato Casaro.
Above: Another Italian poster for Family Life. Art by Renato Casaro.
Above: 1976 Cuban poster for Family Life. Design by Antonio Fernandez Reboiro.
Above: French poster for Family Life. Design by Loris.
Sorry We Missed You, which to my mind is one of Ken Loach’s strongest films in years, opens on March 4th. The US poster, while not up to the standard of many of the above, is not bad (full disclosure, I art directed it and I work for the distributor).
Above: US one sheet for Sorry We Missed You.

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