EDITORIAL- 21/5/2009: FILM FESTIVAL POSTERS SUCK
What is it about the graphic designers hired by film festivals that makes
them create – universally and continuously – such woeful designs, year after
year? From the majors like Cannes, to the newest like Dungog, festivals create
new posters each year, and almost without exception they are awful,
inaccessible, meaningless, wanky or plain silly. By Andrew L. Urban.
This week we preview the 2009 Sydney Film Festival (June 3- 14); great program …
but what is the meaning of a bow-tied pug, a red curtained old TV set and the
tagline ‘Don’t try this at home.’ Cute dog... but.... Unless you’ve seen the
trailer, which most people receiving the program guide in their Sydney Morning
Herald will not see, the image doesn’t communicate anything of value.
If you’ve seen the trailer for the festival, you’ll see that the pug’s owner (a
dull looking chap) is actually trying to watch something on his TV at home,
attempting to make it a bit like the cinema experience, complete with red
curtains and getting dressed up. Hence the bow tie on the pug. He doesn’t
succeed, because when he pulls the curtain string to open it, the TV crashes to
the floor, curtain and all.
"The message intended... The message delivered ..."
The message intended: come out to the cinema for the festival for a great
movie experience. The message delivered: don’t try and put a curtain in front of
your wonky old TV set.
In 2006, the Sydney Film Festival even paid the designers to create a special
fabric for the photo of the woman floating in water, but shot so as to make it
appear she was standing up, and the water surface was perpendicular in the
photo. Why? What did this tell us about the festival? ‘I’ve surfaced sideways to
watch some festival films,’ she must be saying.
This year, the Dungog Film Festival (May 28 – 31) has adopted as its logo a
graphic representation of cow, caught glancing backwards. ‘Where did I leave
that can of film?’ she must be saying. Dungog is in the Hunter valley, and there
are indeed cows in the fields around it. But it’s not the cows that
differentiate the festival at Dungog; the festival is unique because it screens
exclusively Australian films.
"a terrible record of wanky images"
Cannes, the great altar of cinema at which the world worships the artform,
has a terrible record of wanky images for each of its festivals, relevant and
meaningful only in the minds of the designers, who have managed to convince the
festival decision makers of their esoteric value. On last year’s festival
poster, a blonde holds up to her eyes what appears to be a strip of black film –
I think that’s what it is, and she is holding it gingerly. ‘I can’t see a bloody
thing!’ she must be saying. The image is out of focus, which is meant to be
This year’s poster also features a blonde (a Grace Kelly invocation), but this
time she has her back to the camera as she looks through French doors to the
scenery outside, wearing a black evening dress. Clearly relevant to a film
festival like Cannes, ‘Where is my limo to the screening?’ she must be saying.
The 2006 Cannes poster is even more pretentious: this time, the woman (possibly
the same blonde) is seen only in silhouette as she walks down a narrow
staircase, with a light shining above and behind her. It’s been like this for
yonks: look at the 1981 poster, where the poor blonde had her head blown out by
light, leaving a faint pouting mouth to speak to us. ‘If you can’t see Marilyn
Monroe in this poster you must be blind,’ she must be saying.
The only thing that Cannes retains each year is its stylised palm frond, which
is always blue, despite the fact that the prize is the Palme d’Or. But logic has
no place in art, eh.
The Adelaide Film Festival has two images on its website, fused into one: a
beaming blonde (yes again) usherette who seems to have stepped out of the 50s
stands beside a giant eyeball which has replaced the head of a T shirted
character. The eyeball is not only truly unappealing, it actually dehumanises
the image. Whose eyedea was this?
There is no end to the perversions and travesties in film festival poster
design; in 2007, the Eurasia Film Festival had two angelic blondes sliding along
a strip of film somewhere in the heavens. Apart from the wince it generates on
sight, the poster seems to be more a foot fetish exercise.
"striking, inventive posters that are far superior in
But there are exceptions: ironically enough, the Directors Fortnight and Un
Certain Regard sections at Cannes (the former a separately organised event)
often produce striking, inventive posters that are far superior in creative
value than the main event’s – like the Directors Fortnight poster for 2006 by
Roland Topor, which proposes a unique view of the human head/face, symbolising the
exploration of the human condition that is central to the best of cinema. Ironically, the late filmmaker and illustrator Topor (1938 – 1997) didn’t create this for the festival – it was selected by the festival from his collection.
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Cute dog, but...
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FILM FESTIVAL POSTERS SUCK - PART 2
"I’ve surfaced sideways to
watch some festival films"
Where did I leave
that can of film?
A foot fetish exercise
Whose eyedea was this?
Inventive striking posters...
A unique view of the human head/face, symbolising the
exploration of the human condition