Picture Show: A new wave of artistic film posters comes aboveground
 Alibi V.22 No.51 • Dec 19-25, 2013 

Book Review

Picture Show

A new wave of artistic film posters comes aboveground

Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art From the Underground

Schiffer Publishing

“Poster art,” says editor Matthew Chojnacki in Alternative Movie Posters: Film Art From the Underground, “is clearly back with a vengeance.” Showcasing the pictorial renaissance in upwards of 200 posters from over 100 artists, his glossy, gifty book is packed with deep affection for—and great examples of—the art of the one-sheet.

There’s no shame in pointing out that this book is a big fat bucket of eye-candy. Sizzling colors and striking iconography will tempt film buffs and contemporary design fans alike to pore over the full pages devoted to each piece. The images aren’t official posters, but striking reimaginings created for film fests, theaters and galleries.

Mark Welser

For those of us who like to get elbow-deep in the details, Chojnacki includes more. Quick segments explain concepts behind individual posters in the artists’ own words, as well as influences, film favs and preferred mediums. Much of the commentary provides real, if brief, insight into the creative process. Mike Langlie, whose Donnie Darko and Mulholland Drive pieces are included, remarks that directors “Richard Kelly and David Lynch are experts at crafting self-contained universes run by believable—if not always comprehensible—dream logic.” Not a bad point, and Langlie’s gritty, suggestive posters exude a similar sense of sovereign realities.

Jesse Philips

Chojnacki’s good taste is in evidence with posters like Trevor Dunt’s creased ’70s Moon and Garrett Ross’ The Prestige, though the brilliant Saul Bass is a ghost that overly haunts these pages. To be sure, Bass was a virtuoso designer who revolutionized movie art with posters like those for Vertigo and Anatomy of a Murder, but do we really have to see so many derivatives of his distinctive letters, layouts and paper-cutout hands? The Bass-esque posters for Night of the Living Dead by Mark Welser and The Godfather by Mile 44 (among many others) are still cool, but it’s kinda pot/kettle/black of Chojnacki to ding the movie industry in his introduction for a “lack of original movies (see Hollywood’s endless stream of ’80s remakes).”

Luckily, you’ll probably love Chojnacki’s aesthetic. The man does know cool. And, it’s fair to say, the collection still has plenty of range, from the street style of James Rheem Davis’ They Live to the hyperdetailed, comics-influenced Tommy by Jesse Philips (who’s graced multiple Alibi covers). So, bottom line, Alternative Movie Posters is a drool-worthy visual volume—and while it would make a really swanky gift for several people on your list, you should probably start with a copy for yourself.