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Imperium Kontratakuje
September 6, 2008 10:11 AM   Subscribe

Apparently whenever US movies were released in Soviet-era Poland, the posters were discarded and replaced by new versions by Polish artists. Alternately disturbing and frickin' awesome, and often containing political comments of varying subtlety. Previously.
posted by genghis (60 comments total) 92 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Probably-NSFW via)
posted by genghis at 10:12 AM on September 6, 2008


You do not forget Soviet-Era Poland -- Soviet-Era Poland forgets YOU!.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:17 AM on September 6, 2008


Where oh where do I get prints or high resolution versions of these.

I'm near Poland. I can go there if need be.
posted by Lord_Pall at 10:19 AM on September 6, 2008


It has to be pointed out that some of them (like Eyes Wide Shut) aren't really Soviet-era films.

It's still a very cool post, though. Dziękuję.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:19 AM on September 6, 2008


Alternately awesome and awesomer.

It looks like you can order some of these through the links at the bottom of the main article.
posted by lekvar at 10:23 AM on September 6, 2008


some of them

Come to think of it, it looks like Eyes Wide Shut is the only exception to the rule. My bad.
posted by daniel_charms at 10:26 AM on September 6, 2008


The Rosemary's Baby and Ghandi posters are standouts for me. The Willow one is just kooky! Is that the same Willow I'm thinking of?
posted by strontiumdog at 10:26 AM on September 6, 2008


Ooh, just noticed the After Hours one too. Really cool.
posted by strontiumdog at 10:27 AM on September 6, 2008


I like how some of them - like Apocalypse Now or Eyes Wide Shut - are actually great pieces of art in their own right, while others - check out Gremlins and Short Circuit - seem to have been done by a 5 yr-old playing with ms paint for the first time.

Then there's Weekend at Bernies. It's just weird.
posted by mannequito at 10:28 AM on September 6, 2008


You can find a few more on eBay.
posted by brundlefly at 10:33 AM on September 6, 2008


Ali MacGrove?
posted by chococat at 10:35 AM on September 6, 2008


Also previously.
posted by churl at 10:36 AM on September 6, 2008


The poster for Fanny and Alexander is awesome.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:38 AM on September 6, 2008


And also previously here as well. Metafilter has a rich cultural tradition of Polish movie poster posts and I always love them.
posted by churl at 10:38 AM on September 6, 2008


mannequito, you must know some brilliant 5-year-olds.

I think every one of these is magnificent.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 10:39 AM on September 6, 2008


manniquito, I can't agree about Gremlins and Short Circuit 2 (which I assume meant). Gremlins doesn't do much for me but the Short Circuit 2 one is in a classic tradition of poster art strongly reminiscent of work being done in the West around the 1930s.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:40 AM on September 6, 2008


Weekend at Bernie's and Harry and the Hendersons both just seem very...wrong to me. Like, there's something...um. You know. I mean. Okay.

I don't know who they thought the audience was for Tootsie, but I bet they were disappointed if they showed up.

I love Rosemary's Baby and the Edsel-esque Christine, though. My God.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:41 AM on September 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


Beautiful stuff including Weekend At Bernies. It actually gives me hope that something of genuine interest could come from that franchise.

This all brings back memories of being in former East Berlin back in the 90s and how many of the public spaces still showed fading remnants of official state sponsored art (shopping areas, subway stations etc), and how this so-called "State Propaganda" was just so much more beautiful than all the f**king advertising polluting the public spaces of the west. One more argument against the inherent "goodness" of the Market.
posted by philip-random at 10:43 AM on September 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


You're right, taking another look at the Short Circuit poster, there's a fair bit of detail going on in there. Maybe I'm just not used to the style.

Also, I just now saw Airplane 2 near the bottom ... it's got kind of an ourobouros theme too, but ... licking instead of eating. Awesome.
posted by mannequito at 10:51 AM on September 6, 2008


I'm a little disappointed I wasn't able to find the Short Circuit 2 print on sale anywhere.

Also, it's worth noting that the "Eyes Wide Shut" and a few others are 'limited edition prints' done in the style of posters from this era but made in the late 2000s.
posted by theclaw at 10:51 AM on September 6, 2008


While many of them are beautiful, I think in some cases the artist forgot that the point of a movie poster is to sell the movie, to make people want to go see the film. By that metric I think some of them fail -- the 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' one, for example. It looks nice, but doesn't say anything about the story, and it doesn't make me interested in seeing the film. Nor does the 'Terms of Endearment' poster. But I'll concede that not being Polish the posters aren't targeted at me -- they may be working on a cultural plane that doesn't intersect with my own sensibilities. Maybe they do make Polish people interested in the movies.

That said, the 'Crocodile Dundee 2' poster is brilliant, with the croc's teeth turning into the NYC skyline.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:55 AM on September 6, 2008


I love how some of these make the movies seem more highbrow than they are.

There's some beautiful artwork there.
posted by elfgirl at 10:56 AM on September 6, 2008


The Fatal Attraction poster is a single panel Sex Education 101, while the mixed sports of the MASH poster could be a metaphor for the ambiguity of the doctor-draftees.
posted by Cranberry at 10:57 AM on September 6, 2008


Or the scene (one of many where the rules are tossed out) where a character puts the football under his jersey and goes running with it.
posted by johnofjack at 11:00 AM on September 6, 2008


KAC, that's kind of what I like about them. It's what you'd get if you handed the assignment to an artist and didn't allow the marketing people anywhere near them. And as marketing a good many of them are misfires, but they do bring art into the world where I can't help feeling that most official movie posters suck art out of the world.

And a poster which says nothing about the story isn't necessarily a bad thing. Most Saul Bass posters say nothing about the actual content of a film but he was nevertheless in huge demand and it doesn't seem to have done them any harm at the box office.
posted by George_Spiggott at 11:05 AM on September 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


as marketing a good many of them are misfires, but they do bring art into the world where I can't help feeling that most official movie posters suck art out of the world.

10 points. Move to the front of the line.
posted by philip-random at 11:15 AM on September 6, 2008


George_Spiggott, you're right, Saul Bass posters didn't say much about the stories of the movies they promoted but I think they did establish an emotional tone that helped to brand and market the film. That's why they're good examples of cases in which fine art dovetails nicely with commercial purpose -- they're great art and also encourage an interest in the product. But I think some of these Polish examples lean too heavily toward creating art and neglect the marketing purpose of the poster. In some cases they actually turn me off toward seeing the movie. So while they may succeed as pure art, as advertising posters they fail.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 11:24 AM on September 6, 2008


These are great.

Is there any relationship at all between the Days of Heaven poster and the content of the film? I can't see it.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 11:27 AM on September 6, 2008


The one for The Last Detail is great!
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:31 AM on September 6, 2008


Oh boy, I need this so hard.
posted by zusty at 11:49 AM on September 6, 2008


So many of these are so much better than the actual movie posters. Wow. Thanks, great post!
posted by absalom at 11:50 AM on September 6, 2008


These are really rad. Thanks for the post!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 11:59 AM on September 6, 2008


Kraftmatic - Agreed. It took me a moment to notice that, but that ended up being the standout one for me.
posted by vernondalhart at 12:09 PM on September 6, 2008


I think every one of these is magnificent.

I agree except for Alphaville, which I don't care for. But 49/50 is a terrific batting average. Thanks for the post!

In some cases they actually turn me off toward seeing the movie. So while they may succeed as pure art, as advertising posters they fail.

Well, except as you yourself said:

But I'll concede that not being Polish the posters aren't targeted at me -- they may be working on a cultural plane that doesn't intersect with my own sensibilities. Maybe they do make Polish people interested in the movies.


I submit that your reactions are pretty much irrelevant to the actual effectiveness of the posters, and one would have to poll actual Poles (heh) to find out.
posted by languagehat at 12:15 PM on September 6, 2008


These are incredible. I want that Getaway poster. God, I want to use it as the cover of a novel. It's awesome.

*geeks out hard*
posted by Bookhouse at 12:21 PM on September 6, 2008


Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I just found an old Satsys poster I used to have!
We've struck gold!
posted by captainsohler at 12:24 PM on September 6, 2008


That single page is a course in poster design and illustration. Makes me long for the days when we actually did posters for every little event. Excellent post!
posted by Thorzdad at 12:28 PM on September 6, 2008


The fly's poster was amazing too. Love the scanline look.
posted by phyrewerx at 12:37 PM on September 6, 2008


In some cases they actually turn me off toward seeing the movie. So while they may succeed as pure art, as advertising posters they fail.

You're right that as advertising posters, these are not very good (and in some cases, quite misleading). What you have to realize here, I think, is that in the context where these posters were created (I'm assuming that most of these really are Soviet-era posters, although there's evidence that at least some of them are from a later period), the channels for artistic self-expression were rather limited. The traditional channels (museums, exhibitions) would also be much more closely guarded by the ideological state machine, so it was inevitable that many talented artists would move to areas where they had more artistic freedom and where there was less ideological pressure (hence the occasional political commentary) - movie posters, illustrations for children's books and so on.
posted by daniel_charms at 12:42 PM on September 6, 2008


So many of these are so much better than the actual movie posters.

They are the actual movie posters. Or were. If you like them, keep an eye out for Freedom on the Fence:
Polish School of Posters
The late 1940s witnessed another shift in the life of the Polish poster. It was at this time that a small group of artists, including Henryk Tomaszewski, Józef Mroszczak and Eryk Lipiński, set out on a new path of artistic invention. When asked in 1946 by the Polish Film Department to design posters, they agreed- but with the stipulation that the work be based on their own artistic terms, not the typical advertising clichés of the past. This new direction saw a subtle use of metaphor, unusual juxtaposition of forms, and elements of abstraction combined in innovative ways. [...]
and
Poster life after Communism
Almost overnight, capitalism arrived in Poland and the effects have been devastating for the genre of poster art. Today, garish billboards adorn the streets and globalized imagery and influences permeate Polish society, altering what was once a more isolated and distinct visual tradition. Where once there were 1,000 posters commissioned each year by the Polish government, there are now less than 100. Hollywood "star" posters have replaced the interpretive film poster. While filming in the summer of 2002, we could not escape the pre-packaged publicity images of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones promoting "Men In Black II."

The Polish government no longer finances most cultural events; theatres cannot afford to publish artistic posters, and the idea of a film as an excuse to make a poster has vanished. [...]
posted by pracowity at 12:55 PM on September 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've got some posters from The Polish Poster shop and from this ebay seller. Welcome to your new obsession, guys. (On preview, I see the link above, but I highly recommend that particular seller.)

My favorites are by Stasys Eidrigevicius. The impact on the computer screen is nothing to seeing them full size. They are really beautiful.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:57 PM on September 6, 2008


Brilliant posters. Cool find.
posted by nickyskye at 1:26 PM on September 6, 2008


I would love to hang the poster for "After Hours" on my office wall. I should see the movie.
posted by Deep Dish at 1:49 PM on September 6, 2008


as I'm sitting in my kitchen typing this, there are a few polish posters found off ebay framed on the walls, mostly late 70s posters made for events or commemorations, such as the "60th anniversary of the russian revolution", a meeting for "journalists in the service of peace and cooperation among nations" and the "world assembly of builders of peace" (warsaw, 1977). They have - very differently from more pictorial posters, although they're from much the same artists - a quality of simple, linear, dry design which is now uncommon. Theatre, movies, and circus (cyrk) posters from artists such as Czerniawsky, Pagowsky and Stasys Eidrigevicius are really, really pure gold, and a testimony to a disappearing age.
(leave some for me!)
posted by _dario at 2:52 PM on September 6, 2008


So much fried gold in there!

Short Circuit make me giggle giggle- my favoutire by far.

Biggest WTF? = Neverending Story and Weekend at Bernies
posted by AzzaMcKazza at 3:24 PM on September 6, 2008


This is fantastic. BotW.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:25 PM on September 6, 2008


I like the vision of the alien from Alien. Run! Run from the sentient pink goo!
posted by tehloki at 4:38 PM on September 6, 2008


These are wicked. They remind me a lot of concert posters rather than movie posters. I find that with music posters it seems like the artist uses the band or the music only as a jumping off point, rather than trying to fill out a template drawn up by the marketing department, which makes the posters much more expressive. I would definitely prefer to see movie posters like this around here than the photoshopped composites of the main actors looking all fake and made-up.
posted by Dr. Send at 6:54 PM on September 6, 2008


Thanks for this. Just ran into these for the first time two weeks ago via a dealer at the Kollwitzplatz Market in Berlin. I had no idea there was such a rich history of the graphic arts in Poland.
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 7:16 PM on September 6, 2008


I submit that your reactions are pretty much irrelevant to the actual effectiveness of the posters, and one would have to poll actual Poles (heh) to find out.

I don't think my reaction is entirely irrelevant. Children probably have common interests across most Western cultures, and I remember what I liked as a child. If I were a child I wouldn't think much of the the Polish poster for "Raiders of the Lost Ark", a film whose core audience is young viewers. I'll bet Polish kids loved that movie as much as American kids did, but the Polish poster promises none of the action and adventure content of the movie; it's just some abstract art surrounding a treated image of Harrison Ford. In contrast, the American poster makes it very clear what's in store. Put a Polish kid in front of both of those posters and ask him which movie he'd rather see -- I'd bet 10 to 1 he's going to choose the one with the swords and guns and crazy guy swinging a bullwhip.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:28 PM on September 6, 2008


Heh. Just as I posted the link to the Indiana Jones poster, this FPP appears.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 7:31 PM on September 6, 2008


I'm thinking of the Polish teenagers growing up with these on the wall in their room.
posted by Dragonness at 8:44 PM on September 6, 2008



I've had great poster buying experiences online from the Art of Poster (bought a 1972 Solaris poster and they shipped it incredibly quickly right before Christmas), and in the store from Galeria Plakatu Krakow. Starowieyski is my favorite artist; we also have several from Stasys and Walkuski.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:11 PM on September 6, 2008


Great post - between this and the roleplaying history post, MeFi really is on a roll today.
posted by ghost of a past number at 11:26 PM on September 6, 2008


They are all so beautiful, but if I saw the Weekend at Bernie's one, I'd be terribly disappointed. It definitly makes me think the movie will be brilliant because the poster is.
posted by metricfan at 12:43 AM on September 7, 2008


The Rosemary's Baby poster completely gives away the shattering climax which the movie's slowly rising tension and sense of gradually unfolding evil leads up to. They might as well have re-named the movie "Devil In My Womb: Rosemary's Horror"
posted by longsleeves at 1:55 AM on September 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


One of my favorites (which I have on a wall upstairs) is the poster for Cabaret.

These are not for everyone's taste. One strand (as noted) is rather gloomy, some tend toward probably ironic children's motifs, and there's a tendency to literalizing metaphors.

There are several versions of some of these--I remember a different Raiders of the Lost Ark poster than is shown here.

Many of these were designed and received as not-too-covert political commentary. The hairy hand in the Harry and the Hendersons poster is holding up two fingers in a V-for-Victory sign. Gen. Jaruzelski was famous for saying "There is no 'V' in the Polish alphabet," which became the starting-point for many many such gestures during protests.
posted by palancik at 6:21 PM on September 7, 2008


Thank you, palancik, for linking to that brilliant Cabaret poster. I love it!
posted by longsleeves at 10:50 PM on September 7, 2008


Unrelentingly awesome.
posted by BrotherCaine at 1:30 AM on September 8, 2008


I love the War Games poster.
posted by Mitheral at 2:21 AM on September 8, 2008


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