Prosper Assouline on Cinema
Roger Thérond was my first memory in movies. He was a wonderful man we used to call “the Eye”. For decades, he was the director of Paris Match Magazine. He was a film critic for the French Cinema when he was younger. Cinema was his passion, as jazz was Daniel Filipacchi’s passion.
I was 25 years old when he asked me to help him on a book layout on “film noirs”. It was my first time working on a book.
I had to choose photographs from tens of thousands of prints located in an agency in London. My only goal was to make an aesthetic decision. I’ll never forget these pictures, arranged in the style of an Edouard Hopper painting. 7 or 8 different plans. Everything was very clear.
The first shot depicted a nighttime atmosphere in a bedroom. In the foreground, there was a sofa, a table with a lamp, a woman on her feet looking out the terrace glass door, a table on the terrace with a bottle of whisky on top of it, an enormous metal bridge, and on the other side, an illuminated stairwell. The full moon completed this piece.
Unreal. The title of the book was Les Années Éblouissantes, 1945-1952.
After this experience, our meeting 10 years later was inevitable. Roger Corbeau, the master of black & white and of composition, was an exceptional set photographer from Louis Jouvet to Simone Signoret.
When we initially started our publishing house, Martine and I decided, as a tribute, to create an amazing book.
We found one of the last rotogravure printers in Europe, based in Alsace. A financial madness that Alexandre today would not allow us to do. Unfortunately, Roger Corbeau, who was so enthusiastic about the concept and process, died before the book was published.
Martine Assouline On Film Posters
The Contempt. A Masterful film. Godard’s adaptation to Moravia’s theme is a lesson for filmmakers, a fabulous example of intelligence in art and the evidence of best expression of interiority.
Casting, scenes, music….Each professional of the team who participated in this film was chosen for its excellence, until the “ generique” which immerses you immediately into the infinite beauty of the tragedy.
And…Brigitte Bardot! The magnificence and insolence of beauty at its best.
Well, seen from contemporary eyes, the only weakness of The Contempt, is somewhere because of her, as its original poster, created by, I imagine, an artist subjugated by the movie star, expressed her in the most sensual way, forgetting to touch the sense of this very particular film. BB was the star. Godard surely also pushed to it.
Fortunately there were other posters created and one of my favourites is the one done for the Cannes Film Festival in 2016, which shows the iconic Malaparte’s house of Capri.
Beyond the talent of the artist, the art of posters reflects strongly on the period, and films can be immediately located in time even by not experienced eyes. Some of them are so well known they join the collective memory, and the original pieces can reach very high prices in auctions, like Lawrence of Arabia (£18 250), Casablanca (£30 000), or Diamonds are Forever (£79 250), all world record prices at Christie’s auctions.
There are more and more collectors of the art of posters, and personally, I could be one if books will give me more time for it. I would definitely get: West Side Story, Blow Up, Shaft, La Dolce Vita and The Graduate, but also all the creations of Saul Bass, especially Vertigo. I am a great fan of this illustrator, and loved the work done by Olivier Kuntzel and Florence Deygas inspired by Saul Bass, for the great Spielberg film Catch me if you Can. My choices can appear a bit nostalgic, but I find the art of posters sometimes forgotten nowadays, apart from few directors who really put value on it, and, evidently of all the mainstream movies and greatest series whose budgets allow great art directors to work plenty on it.
Tim Palen, for example, did a huge and fabulous job with Hunger Games, and we did a book to keep such artistic vision which is part of the success of the 3 movies. Sure, it goes much beyond the art of the poster which is our subject.
Going back to movie posters, I really believe that a lot of them are fantastic to decorate a room as well as an open door to dreams. Some years ago we did a book on a great collection called Cinema on Papers by Dwight M. Cleveland. A way to discover so many films, and talented artists!