“Overcooked cliches for movie posters have been served up by Hollywood admen since the silent era. Pressured to appeal to as many potential ticket buyers as possible, studio posters played it safe by blowing up the head of a bankable celebrity or spotlighting a signature moment of romance or action. For that reason, the history of American poster design is dominated by endless tiresome formulas.” From Otto Buj’s article Buy American, linked above.
French film poster design suffered a similar fate. Cinema was considered entertainment for the lower class in France and so the high poster art tradition of Lautrec and Cheret was reserved only for operas, cabarets and music halls. By the French point of view, only a safe and literal approach to film marketing would be understood by the lower classes.
Polish designers, on the other hand, rejected state imposed social-realism and drew upon the dark and obsessive tradition of Polish Romanticism. Poland enjoyed a “golden age of movie-poster design” from the 50’s to the mid 70’s.
For your consideration I present this 1963 Polish film poster for Hitchcock’s The Birds, designed by Bronislaw Zelek. Notice the complete absence of celebrity cameos.
A documentary about the Gutenberg press that I really enjoyed. This film provides great insight into the history of print and the painstaking process of printing. Without Gutenberg’s invention, poster art and the history of illustration would not exist. Watch the other five parts on Youtube.
Some contextual chronology:
Woodblock prints date back as early as 200CE
Intaglio first attempted in 1430 but not perfected until Rembrandt’s time in the 17th century.
Gutenberg Press begins production in 1450’s and is modified and improved rapidly. More complex and efficient presses are produced constantly.
Lithography invented in 1796.
Photography 1839, photomontage became a popular tool of artists and poster designers in the early 1900’s.
Offset presses in 1903.
Screenprinting, though dating back to the 10th century in the East, and used industrially and by artists in the 19th century, it did not become the cornerstone of the DIY poster artist until Warhol popularized it in the 1960’s.
The film poster has a unique place in the poster genre because unlike posters for shows or books or destinations which generally had one poster plastered in the near geography of an event, films traveled and got new posters for each region and language they were shown in. Also, film posters were not collected like other posters because they were controlled by the distributors and loaned exclusively to theatres. After a showing, the posters were either destroyed or returned to the distributor for recirculation. Today, however, film posters are highly sought after by collectors and luckily for them, many distributors held on to the posters rather than destroy them.
After WWII, Polish designers were some of the most prolific and innovative in the genre. Their western European and American counterparts had rigid views of film poster design–views which usually involed bombastic taglines and over-the-top dramatic poses of celebrities themselves. In Poland, however, there were no Hollywood pundits directing the poster design. Rather, Polish artists rejected state-imposed social realism and enjoyed free artistic license under the communist regime so long as their work was not politically objectionable.. They drew influence from soviet constructivism and photomontage. The artists employed the skills they perfected as realists to create stunning designs that were far more conceptual than the celebrity-portraits of American posters. Polish posters often seem cryptic to any viewer not familiar with the film itself.
Follow the link for a pdf of source article. Plastered by Otto Buj
His first major work was the Au Bucheron poster. He cofounded the Alliance Graphique–an advertising agency with a distinct art-deco French style. Created first poster designed to be viewed from a moving vehicle for Dubonnet wine. Also invented the serial poster. Was known for designing his posters around typography.
Cassandre only used capital letters in his poster designs and is known most commonly for his rail and transatlantic travel posters.