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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday July 28, 2020 

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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 artistic.

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 creative value"

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...



"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

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