Ask the Reader: favourite movie posters

 – Little Miss Sunshine 

Little Miss Sunshine may not be the first film to come to mind when you think of iconic film posters, but for me this award-winning 2006 drama has one of the most memorable posters of all time. If the yellow background and classic VW Camper don’t immediately stick in your mind, I don’t know if there will ever be a poster that will. The core genius of Little Miss Sunshine’s film poster comes from the clever insight it gives about the key elements of the narrative. The contrasting, and often clashing, nature of each of the characters is perfectly demonstrated within the poster, as each protagonist runs toward the great ‘something’ the film rests on. 

A sense of hope and mobility are clear in the poster.

A sense of hope and mobility are clear in the poster, both of which are key themes of the movie, but this is done in quite deliberate deception. The light mood of the colour scheme and the emphasis on ‘sunshine’ pushes forward the assumption that this film is the light-hearted comedy we all need to brighten our spirits. However, the negative space of the poster combined with the dominant black of the text and character shadows truly reflect the dark subject matter this film grapples with. What I love so much about this poster is the clever way it handles the nuances of the film in image form. It truly picks up on the complexity of the light and dark in the movie, which becomes so much more apparent after watching the film, whilst also being a beautiful poster to look at. And finally, who doesn’t love the colour yellow? 

 – Jaws, Sexy Beast and Parasite

I love the Jaws poster because it is embedded in the public’s mental gallery. Immediately you look at the shark. You look at its protruding teeth and “lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye” (imagine Robert Shaw reading that). His intention is clear: the naked blonde above him, ignorant of what lurks below her pale body. The viewer is left to imagine the bloody scene which will follow this snapshot, left to imagine the severed limbs and cries of pain. It is no accident that the crimson lettering of ‘Jaws’ is so close to the swimmer. Her features are conveniently vague and without distinctive qualities. This is because the poster and the film have a single, unifying message: it could be any one of us, anyone in an open expanse of water, anyone at the mercy of nature’s merciless predator. The notorious ‘Jaws effect’ of abysmal American beach attendance in 1975 and the mass-killing of sharks can be explained by Spielberg’s assault on the human propensity for fear. This poster was an important part of that. I included this poster because it reminds us of the power of two-dimensional art. In perhaps no other instance in modern cinematic history has a poster captured the intention, execution, and impact of a film of such note with such artistic simplicity.

We are left to imagine what will happen next.

Kingsley’s shadow creeps down, invading the well-earned repose of Winston’s ageing, a sunburnt gangster in the Sexy Beast poster. Like Jaws, we are left to imagine what will happen next. Unlike Jaws, the relationship between the principal characters in the image is a bit more complicated: friend, foe, old acquaintance, reformed enemy? It becomes painfully clear when watching the film who Don is and why he’s there. I also like the fact Winstone’s body is left exposed and flabby. He feels vulnerable, especially to a malevolent outsider. All this tension is contrasted with the smooth, white stone and the sparse composition of the picture. Too much clutter and the message would be lost in the pursuit of aesthetic glory. The film itself expands on all these little insights one can glean from the poster: Kingsley’s rage is explored in visceral detail, Winstone’s vulnerabilities are tested, and even the white stone floor is smeared in blood. But, for now, we are left with an image. We are left with a visual menace and the desire to buy the film and watch what happens to the man on the white deck chair.

What’s the word every reviewer used when talking about Parasite? Class. Thankfully, this poster focuses on something less stringently academic, something on a more digestible scale. Alienation. We see the space between the father in the foreground and the son in the background. We see their fragmentation. We see the decedent couple between them, their postures relaxed and at ease when compared with the rigid, motionless figures who occupy the right side of the image. This detachment is heightened by the presence of the lifeless limbs at the bottom of the screen, a warning of the senseless violence to come. Of course, one cannot ignore the rectangular blocks. Why are they there? To make us feel distant? Out of the three films I’ve picked, Parasite has the heaviest social and political themes. This is a poster that helps give the emotional side to these intellectual subjects, without giving up too much. 

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