Sunday, August 13, 2017

#2,407. 24 x 36: A Movie About Movie Posters (2016)

Directed By: Kevin Burke

Starring: Paul Ainsworth, Dave Alexander, Andrea Alvin

Line from the film: "The first connection you would have with a movie is seeing the poster"

Trivia: Among those interviewed in the movie is director Joe Dante

You’ve seen them hanging in the lobbies of your favorite movie palaces, and if you’re a film buff, odds are you own a few yourself. Movie posters have become much more than simple advertisements; nowadays, many are considered works of art. And as we see in director Kevin Burke’s 2016 documentary 24 x 36: A Movie about Movie Posters, they’re also a multi-million dollar industry.

Beginning with the history of the modern movie poster (including its roots in lithography), 24 x 36 then takes us from the early days of the Universal horror films (some, such as Dracula and Bride of Frankenstein, boasted dozens of different poster variations) through to the ‘80s, when those artists who conceived the cinema’s most iconic posters did so anonymously. In fact, it wasn’t until watching this documentary that I realized the same guy (John Alvin) designed the posters for both Blazing Saddles and E.T. 

The inventive style of the ‘80s gave way to a more basic approach in the ‘90s and early 2000’s, when a studio’s marketing division determined the look and feel of a movie’s poster. But with the so-called “mondo” movement in full swing, an array of independent artists, all film buffs themselves, are designing posters more stylish than anything coming out of Hollywood (Some are so impressive that collectors are willing to pay hundreds, if not thousands of dollars just to own one).

In essence, 24 x 36 is two documentaries in one. The first half is dedicated to the past, focusing on such artists as Bob Peak (Apocalypse Now, Star Trek The Motion Picture) and Richard Amsel (The Sting, Flash Gordon, Raiders of the Lost Ark), most of whom didn’t get the credit they deserved (Roger Kastel, who designed the poster for 1975’s Jaws, sent his original sketches to Universal, and never saw them again). This opening section of 24 x 36 was incredibly informative, and I enjoyed learning more about some of my favorite posters.

Equally as engrossing is the film’s second half, which explores the modern phenomenon of indie posters, from “alternative” renderings of the classics (I was especially fond of Gary Pullin’s design for Street Trash) to straight-up collectibles, created by film fans for film fans. This indie movement has become so popular that even Hollywood has taken notice; in what is one of the documentary's best scenes, we sit in on a “focus group” in which participants are asked to choose between two posters: a generic studio rendering (showing mostly the actors’ faces), and a more artistic take on the same movie (the “artsy” one definitely had a few ardent supporters).

More than an eye-opening documentary, 24 x 36 has also inspired me to start collecting again (I’ve purchased some 200 posters over the years, but none since 2007). And if you love movies, it will undoubtedly have the same effect on you.

1 comment:

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