Before you throw up your hands in dismay, please note that today’s column is called Movie Poster Trend of the Week. I am not a huge fan of the three teaser posters for Morning Glory, though in theory I applaud their daring. The problem for me is that they just don’t do anything for the film (a Broadcast News for the ’10s, opening next Friday) and are merely aping a trend without really carrying it off with much aplomb. They are hard to read and the overlaid type doesn’t really serve any purpose.
The use of type obscuring an actor’s face, and the dominance of type over image has been much in evidence in movie posters lately. It was used superbly in two of my favorite posters of the year to date, for I'm Still Here, and I Am Love, and also in the posters for The Social Network and, to a lesser degree, for Salt (all of which can be seen below). Neil Kellerhouse, who beautifully obscured Sasha Grey’s face in my favorite poster of last year, seems to be pushing this particular corner of the envelope the hardest, having designed both I'm Still Here and The Social Network.
I think I first saw this done ten years ago, in a milder form, in the poster for Before Night Falls. But the most influential poster in this style has to be the 2007 poster for Michael Clayton, though the significant thing about the Clayton poster, as with The Social Network and Morning Glory, is that it’s the tagline which is dominant, not the title. (The new poster for Tiny Furniture follows this particular trend of overbearing taglines.)
I have tried to find a precedent for this style in older movie posters, but though I’ve found many examples of type placed judiciously on faces, as in these posters for Come and See and Stolen Kisses, I've found none that take it to this level of disregard. (Hans Hillman’s Le feu follet, using leaves instead of type, might be the closest in spirit). One of the criticisms I heard of the Social Network poster is that it looked like a book cover, and, for sure, more examples of this style can be found in book design, as in Jamie Keenan’s excellent cover for Never Let Me Go. But if anyone can find me other examples in earlier movie posters I’d love to see them.