What’s That a Poster For?!

Tonight I discovered one of the two topics for which blogs were created: Polish posters.1   I cooked up a quiz, did the heavy lifting in Photoshop, and wrote most of this post before a Google search showed me that I’m the last one to arrive at this party.

The good news is that this daring artwork is getting a lot of attention all over. For example, last year there was an exhibit at MoMA devoted to Polish poster design from 1945 through 1989, and there’s this documentary, Freedom on the Fence, which looks fascinating:

If you want history, as I said, just Google “polish film posters blog” and go nuts. (I found this blog post to be particularly interesting.) Those folks are much more educated about this stuff than I am. On the other hand, I can provide you with a little personal history and a little fun.

My fascination and love with Polish posters began ten years ago with Film Posters of the 70s, by Graham Marsh and Tony Nourmand. This is a helluva great coffee table book, with an average of a poster to a page, from several countries. Repeatedly, as I flipped through the book, the posters designed in Poland were the most shocking, unique, beautiful. Sometimes they were so out there I wondered if the artists had seen the films before making the posters. A fine example of their blend of the grotesque and esoteric is the one for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation (1974). If you’ve never seen the film, take my word for it: this creepy poster is definitely onto something. In its own way, (I think) it captures the darker nuances of that film.

The poster that really caught my eye, however, was for Cabaret (look above), by Wiktor Gorka; it was the only Cabaret poster worldwide that had the nerve to include a swastika as part of its design (it does more than include it!). Since finding an original poster was cost prohibitive–they go for around $500–I simply ripped the page out of the 10”x12” book and framed it. (A few years later, I got a Jewish girlfriend who became my Jewish fiancé. Naturally, when she moved in, I thought, well, time to take down the swastika poster. Strangely, she suggested we hang it in the bathroom.)

But I digress.

Suffice to say that the posters are dazzling and these small scans do not do them justice. (I’ve seen many at galleries and the impact of these bold images several feet wide is like being punched by a cultural revolution.)

And here’s the quiz. Below are 3 posters, with the identifying info (title, filmmaker, actors, etc.) blurred out. All the films are from the last 40 years and are American. Can you guess what they are? (I’ll post the unadulterated versions in a couple of days.)

(Actually, as of April 20, I’ve posted the un-blurred originals here.)

BACK TO POST 1 The other is Frank Sinatra’s doomed 1970 concept LP Watertown. I’m reminded of what Brian Eno said about the Velvet Underground’s first LP: “It only sold 10,000 copies, but everyone who bought it formed a band.” Well, not many people listen to Watertown, but whoever does ends up blogging about it.


Filed under Posters

14 responses to “What’s That a Poster For?!

  1. I expect if I guess I’d just embarrass myself by guessing what movies those posters are supposed to be for, so I’ll wait for the big reveal instead and pretend I knew all along. Mwhahahaha.

  2. illy c

    Damn, those Polish posters are so out there that even knowing that I’ve seen all these before, I can’t identify the movies. Well, all except the last one, which I won’t spoil by revealing. But looking at it now, I at least can finally see who the person is supposed to look like, which I could never figure out, even seeing it in person. (Or perhaps it is supposed to be a combination of all of the characters into one weird image.) Should I give a clue?

    • Yes, I think the third could benefit from a clue. Some of the posters are so strange, it was unfair to include them at all. As for the three I chose, prob. the biggest curveball is that I’m such a 70s junky, I should stress that only one of these films is from that decade.

  3. Deborah

    Polish postage stamps are pretty amazing too.

    • I’m just scratching the surface here. There was a graphic movement that involved art and commerce, not just film. That trailer gives us an idea. I’m really looking forward to seeing that.

  4. Hey, that Cabaret poster *makes* the bathroom, as far as I’m concerned. Without it, it would be just another room to pee in.

    I’m not sure what I mean by that, exactly, but there you go.

  5. illy c

    OK, the clue for number three is that the person depicted in the photo looks like the bastard child of Elliot Gould and Geraldine Chaplin.
    I guess that’s a pretty obscure clue.

  6. These are awesome. I have no idea what they are, but nonetheless. Amazing.

  7. Fred B. Smith

    Watertown! I went through a surprising amount of difficulty locating a CD of that (after purchasing what turned out to be a hopelessly warped LP several years previously); I’ve never regretted it.

  8. 1. Vicky Cristina Barcelona ????
    2. The Shaggy Dog ????
    3. Nashville

  9. Pingback: The Link Side of the World – The Baseline Synapse

  10. Pingback: Polish Posters Revealed « Peel Slowly

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