Archive for the 'Film' Category

Submarine Movie (Poster) Review

The designer was clearly influenced by screen-printing as illustrated by the colour choice and the  simple over-printing of a cyan square over the actor’s face. Exclusively using CMYK colours is becoming incredibly overdone. Cyan is one of the process colours and looks striking here but I’m relieved that the designer has chosen more unusual variations of yellow and magenta/red to split up the movie’s title.  I adore desaturated photograph – not quite black and white, but almost there. The boy’s expression is great, though it looks like he’s somehow looking in two directions at one..

Since the movie is presented by Ben Stiller, I was originally concerned that it might be an attempt at making a very American indie movie – basically 500 Days of Summer with a younger cast. But I find that the designer chose the very British  Gill Sans reassuring. Gill Sans is also used by the British Railway, Penguin Books and Bloc Party.

I like the subtle drowning reference. It actually reminds me of the amazing Radiohead No Surprises video. Though maybe I just have Radiohead on the mind since their new album ‘The King of Limbs’  is coming out very soon.

To read a review of the actual movie, check out the New York Times review.


Les Triplettes de Belleville

Madame Souza’s home in Sylvain Chomet’s dark, comic vision “Les Triplettes de Belleville” may resemble a vintage store in Williamsburg, but it also looks like a grandmother owns it. The minute we step inside her home, we know Madame Souza’s is a traditional French woman. She has decorated her house with a floral patterned furniture, grandfather clock, antique piano, hardback books and carved wooden chairs. Sylvain Chomet’s attention to detail is superb; down to the tiny “O Galo de Barcelos “(Portuguese rooster) motifs on her plastic tablecloth.

Madame Souza’s home illustrates that she is a strong-willed traditionalist. Seasons pass and everything in the area around her little provincial house in the French countryside changes; new buildings spring up and modern airplanes soar above, and eventually her home is shouldered to one side by an elevated highway, but her house’s interior remains the same.

We are made aware from the very beginning that she is thrifty and industrious. She compensates for her uneven leg length with one platform heel and one flat shoe. She knits constantly. Some of the objects she owns are old, but they are well taken care of, repaired and never discarded. Everything she owns seems to serve a dual purpose like when she uses her whisk to massage her grandson Champion’s calves after a long cycle, a thoughtful action showing her dedication to her grandson’s well being.

Her grandson’s bedroom is decorated entirely in bicycle motifs including wallpaper, sheets, photographs, and trinkets and represent his obsessive personality and love of cycling. Champion’s bed stays the same from his youth to adulthood and we see him curve himself to fit the shape, again alluding to the family’s frugal, sparing nature.

When her grandson is kidnapped by the French mafia and taken to Belleville, Madame Souza doesn’t jump in a speedboat or cling to the side of the ship, she (somehow!) travels to Belleville on a small pedal boat, simply ignoring the 1Franc per 20 minutes rule.

While resting under a bridge, she meets the Triplets of Belleville, three eccentric elderly sisters, who were once successful vaudeville performers. But although the triplets and Madame Souza never utter a word to each other, they have an affinity through making music with everyday objects – Madame Souza with a bicycle wheel and the sisters with every object imaginable. And when the triplets invite her to their home, we learn they also both share a fondness for floral patterns and carved wood.

You follow the triplets through a narrow seedy corridor full of open toilets, flies and prostitutes and are welcomed into their home. The dimly lit apartment has a similar aesthetic to the speakeasy but also to Madam Souza’s home, albeit a lot less coordinated. There remains a hint of old world grandeur as the objects were certainly decadent at one point, but an air of decaying luxury dominates as the torn floral wallpaper reveals exposed wood, the beautiful antique piano is horribly out of tune and the floral chaise longue is quite worn.

There is certainly a grotesque quality to the women’s actions in their homes like as they comb their long hair and admire themselves in the dusty mirror. They seem to ignore the passing or time and reject change by hoarding every worn, declining object. Photographs in an assortment frames hold tightly to their memories. Both homes look as through nothing has changed in the past fifty years, but for different reasons. Madame’s reason is to not being wasteful, but for the elderly triplets it is about not wanting to let go of their luxurious past. Our objects are reminders of time’s passing, and although they may get dusty or worn, it is actually us who changes most drastically.

The triplet’s eccentric, offbeat personality manifests itself in the apartment’s decoration. All logic is abandoned at the door: instruments adorn the walls and perfectly polished, empty fridges are treasured and played like a double bass. These same household items transition from musical instruments to weapons and shields in the exciting final scene, elevating the ordinary object along the streets of Belleville.

These streets in the bustling metropolis are equally quirky and surreal as the interiors of the buildings. The city is loosely based on New York, as evidenced by the fat Statue of Liberty on the waterfront, but is also part Montreal. The decaying Beaux-Arts buildings have been distorted and stretched and then piled on top of each other. Chomet also takes great
artistic liberty in exaggerating people’s shape to be either grotesquely fat or horribly skinny, so they too become like surreal props. It is heavy handed, exaggerated, and yes, borderline racist, but that’s the point – it gives the movie its quirky, creepy, unearthly quality.

Animation gives directors the freedom to completely dictate the look of every single aspect of a movie, from its characters, streets, buildings to its objects so they all become production design decisions. Animation often uses these elements not only to reflect the personalities of the characters in the movie but also to point our own views of people and places, whether they are idolized, negative or overly simplified. In the “Team America” movie’s opening scene in Paris, the streets are paved with croissant shapes and all familiar landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and the L’Arc de Triomphe are mere meters from each other. These kinds of animated films give us a glimpse into how Europeans views America and how Americans views Europe – and even though we don’t always want to admit it, it can be a reminder of the stereotypical views that we believe in.

Deconstructing the Black Swan Posters

Before the release of Darren Aronofsky’s newest movie ‘Black Swan’, a number of creative posters were released to great acclaim. I remember the first time I heard about Black Swan when my friends began linking to the posters and saying how beautiful they were. They looked more like theatre posters than movie posters, which are generally not illustrated. Though perhaps because of their success and critical acclaim, more creative posters like these will be created.

The posters were clearly inspired by Russian Constructivist and  done colours associated with era- red, black and cream.

El Lissitzky was one of the pioneers of the Constructivist movement in Russia. The shapes of one of his most iconic pieces ‘Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge’ are used in this first piece. The shadows give it the style of sprayed paint. The haunting face is very theatrical.

The repetition of the dancer’s arms is reminiscent of the repetition used in photo montage. The side profile, and hands in silhouette are important symbols of Constructivism.

The final poster uses typography influenced by the era. There are now digital typefaces available in that style such as P22 Constructivist Square

I found this poster from the 1932 movie Red-Headed women which uses a very similar aesthetic. She certainly looks fiery.

The Constructivist era is one of the most referenced art periods. In 2005, Franz Ferdinand released ‘You Could Have It So Much Better’ and spurned conversations about whether the cover was a homage to the era or a direct rip-off.

What do you think?

‘Greenberg’ Movie Review

*where I write a “review” of an upcoming movie and base my opinion solely on the film poster.

So. Ben Stiller is Greenberg. I’m guessing that this might be a more serious role for Stiller as he is looking a little disheveled with his messy hair and extra pale complexion. I’m guessing that Ben Stiller is hoping that Greenberg will do what ‘Man On The Moon’ or ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ did for Jim Carrey by giving him a little more credibility and some more serious roles. I’m guessing his character is either a crazy scientist, suffering slightly from some form of mental illness or a clinically depressed but altogether endearing and lovable person. But then I’m just taking a stab in the dark.

It seems that mixing hand-drawn illustration and photography in a poster seems to be the quickest and easiest way to indicate a grown-up “indie” flick nowadays. The mix of sans serif and handwritten type is what you’d except for poster using the photography-mixed-with-quirky-illustration combo. I like the use of white space, it’s a little unorthodox for a movie poster and shows a confidence. Hopefully this confidence will be present in the movie itself. I also quite like the green shade chosen for ‘Greenberg’.

I like the way your eye moves around the poster; first to Ben, then your eye follows his to the slogan above and then along the bottom to the movie title and then to “from the acclaimed director of…”. It works well so I predict the movie direction will be simple but effective. And I loved ‘The Squid and the Whale’ so I’ll definitely go see it when it’s released in Ireland. I recommend you do too.