Whether on your wall – brightening up your somewhat dingy student accommodation – or massively enlarged to cover the entire face of a building; movie posters are iconic symbols of the Hollywood glamour of filmmaking and the industry as a whole. Often they are synonymous with the film itself and form two halves, which together create the full ‘picture’. Along with being equally as famous and well known in popular culture thanks to their widespread proliferation, most people will recognise a famous poster whether having seen the film in question or not (shame on you for not seeing the said film yet)!
Film posters have been around since the time when films were first exhibited to the public and they have evolved a great deal since then (as have all other aspects of the film industry). At first they were beautifully illustrated and kept art buried right in the heart of film poster creation. These posters of years past needed to sell the film to the audience, if the poster looked like it had been scrawled by the studio boss’s pre-pubescent kid, well, then the picture was already on the rocks. Now legendary graphic designers and artists, such as Saul Bass, were called upon by directors such as Hitchcock, Wilder, Preminger and Kubrick just so their film’s posters looked as stylish and inviting as possible. Old posters looked so great, becoming classics in their own right, that some of them sell for hundreds of thousands of pounds, they truly are an art form in themselves; the older they are, the more valuable they are – this seems to be a general rule for most objects of interest actually – thus they have become one of the largest contributors to the burgeoning movie memorabilia trade. Since the 1980s, the art of the posters has declined as computers started doing the job, the importance of trailers grew and dodgy photoshopping has reduced some recent posters to ridicule (Bangkok Dangerous anyone). Is this trend simply following the supposed decline of film as an art form? Well, that’s an argument for another day.
In the meantime, us poor students will have to get by with poster copies from the Fresher’s Week stall and HMV on Northumberland Street – at the very least our walls need adorning with something, anything and film posters, whether modern and minimalistic or old illustrated classics, fit the bill rather nicely indeed.
As it happens, Don Corleone silently watches over my living room; and if film posters can provide a re-assuring presence then The Godfather one certainly does.