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Movie Poster of the Week: The Posters of Alan Rudolph

A poster tour through one of the most fascinating careers in American independent cinema.
Above: US one sheet for Trouble in Mind (1985). Art direction by Mike Kaplan, illustration by Ignacio Gomez.
Alan Rudolph may not be one of the best known names in American independent film and that is a shame because his 22-feature filmography comprises a unique body of work of literate, off-kilter, romantic, humanistic cinema. New Yorkers have a chance to devour that work over the next few weeks at the Quad Cinema in their essential retrospective, "Alan Rudolph’s Everyday Lovers."
Rudolph’s poster-ography is as erratic and full of gems as his filmic career. It starts out with a couple of genre horror films—with gaudy posters to match—before launching into the early masterpieces Welcome to L.A. and Remember My Name, both film which were released by Mike Kaplan’s Lagoon. Kaplan, who had previously worked with Stanley Kubrick, is a keen connoisseur and collector of posters himself, and he carefully oversaw the design of Rudolph’s early posters. He hired painter Iganicio Gomez, on the basis of his theater poster for Zoot Suit, to paint a noirish Geraldine Chaplin for Remember My Name. The film was initially to be released by Columbia and even had a poster printed with a more generic image of Chaplin in profile.
The poster for Welcome to L.A. was designed by John Van Hammersveld (best known for the iconic Endless Summer poster) with lettering by Dan Perry, but it was producer Robert Altman, a great mentor of Rudolph’s, who suggested adding the red phone on the pillow. Welcome to L.A. was the most successful independent release of 1976.
My favorite of Kaplan’s posters for Rudolph, however, is the poster above for Trouble in Mind, on which Kaplan worked with Gomez again, over many months, using the type-centric 1942 poster for Tales of Manhattan as their inspiration.
There are beautiful illustrated posters for The Moderns (by star Keith Carradine no less) and Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, but by the early 90s, the quality of Rudolph’s posters tends to diminish (as did much American movie poster art in the 90s, but that’s another story). One gets the distinct feeling that most distributors did not know what to do with Rudolph’s eccentric, whimsical, and very personal cinema, or for that matter with his large Altman-esque casts. The later posters either look like generic thrillers or wacky comedies, when his films are often neither, or they’re both.
Below are all of Rudolph’s films in chronological order, from his debut to his latest release (after a 14 year gap) Ray Meets Helen.
Above: US one sheet for Premonition (1972).
Above: US one sheet for The Barn of the Naked Dead aka Nightmare Circus aka Terror Circus (1974). Illustration by Joseph L. Musso.
Above: US one sheet for Welcome to L.A. (1977). Art direction by Mike Kaplan, design by Jan Hammerveld.
Above: US one sheet for Remember My Name (1978). Art direction by Mike Kaplan, illustration by Ignacio Gomez.
Above: US one sheet for Roadie (1980).
Above: US one sheet for Endangered Species (1982).
Above: US one sheet for Return Engagement (1983).
Above: US one sheet for Choose Me (1984).
Above: US one sheet for Songwriter (1984).
Above: French grande for Trouble in Mind aka Wanda’s Cafe (1985).
Above: US one sheet for Made in Heaven (1987).
Above: US one sheet for The Moderns (1988). Artwork by Keith Carradine.
Above: US one sheet for Love at Large (1990).
Above: US one sheet for Mortal Thoughts (1991) and Home Video poster for Equinox (1992).
Above: US one sheet for Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994). Art by A. Selby.
Above: US one sheet for Afterglow (1997) and French grande for Breakfast of Champions (1999).
Above: US one sheet for Trixie (2000) and unused poster for Investigating Sex (2001).
For Investigating Sex, a film that was actually much more high minded than its title suggested, Mike Kaplan and designer Ulf Skogsberg photographed the entire cast with their eyes closed in hommage to photos taken by the French surrealists of the 1930s (the films dialogue was based on their writing). This poster was created for a special screening at Film Comment Selects as the film was never released theatrically (the only one of Rudolph’s films not to do so). It was later released on DVD renamed Intimate Affairs and with a far different, much more generic cover.
Above: US one sheets for The Secret Lives of Dentists (2002) and Ray Meets Helen (2017).
Many thanks to Mike Kaplan. "Alan Rudolph’s Everyday Lovers" runs at the Quad Cinema through May 10.

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