The film poster in the italian press

"Paper Stars"

A Century of Great Films, shines from the cinema poster collection

by Serena Comelato. From Arte, dicembre 1995

The dream machine has passed more than eighty years publicising itself with posters, and those pieces of paper, like the songs, have become the background for millions of private "Amarcord", capable of bringing back certain moments in your life, stopping you from losing them, as an authorative person of cinema art, Federico Fellini, once proclaimed. Drawn and painted by hundreds of artists, some genial, some mediocre, printed in thousands of copies, the cinemas posters started their lives, beautifully shining on the walls of the centre and in the entrance of first showing cinemas, and after, they followed the film into second and then third showing cinemas, in the provincial cinemas and amongst the equipment of the oratories, slowly but surely, always more torn. Somebody, when the programme was no longer showing, convinced the cinema manager to sell them for a few liras (or dollars or pence) those posters which had become part of their life. Those who kept these relics, today, may have discovered that they made quite a bargain. The posters of the period between the begining of the twentieth century and the 60's have become a sought after collector's item. Record prices, unthinkable of in Italy, have been paid in the U.S.A. where the biggst market for this kind of collectable can be found. An original poster, James Whale's Frankenstein of 1931, was bought for nearly 250 millions of liras at an auction in Hollywood in 1993. It was the same poster that cost the cinema manager 10 cents when the film was released. Only four copies, have survived, hence the record price. The rarity is what makes prices rise in this market where the most sort. after pieces, like the posters of classical American films of the 20's,30's,and 40's, from horror films to Chaplin, from westerns to science fiction, disappeared through the years, stuck on walls or sent to be destroyed. ''Of some classics like Riso Amaro no original copies exist" explains Stefano Dello Schiavo of the Mascherino, Rome. An art gallery that perhaps for the passion of the owner, a collectionist in his own right, follows this market keenly enough to have staged last spring, a lovely exhibition, "The Painted Cinema" If in the United States it was possible to print up to fifteen thousand copies of a poster, in Italy, three or four thousand was more normal. Strangely enough, more were printed in those days, because there were more cinemas then than now. The competition therefore, is great and prices are bound to rise, especially in Italy, where this kind of market bas only been prospering for a couple of years. Collectionists go where their heart takes them, they buy a poster because they have become affectioned to that film, or because they are fans of an actor, like John Wayne, James Dean or Bogart. It was an American collector, a Bogart fan, who set the record by paying more than 40 million liras at Christies, London, last March for the ltalian poster Acque del Sud designed in 1945 by Luigi Martinati. "In Italy however, for reasons of space and practicality nearly all collectors have bought cinema bills, the value of which is practically nil" says Dello Schiavo. In the printing procedures however, the original rough outline (normally a tempera on paper) was usually destroyed. Those remaining however, signed by the "Greats" such as the brothers Enzo and Giuliano Nistri, Angelo Cesselon or Anselmo Ballester could be worth more than the original finished poster.

"The icons of desire"

by Sergio Naitza. From "Il cinema immobile", L'Alambicco- 1997

A cinema poster collection. A common and banal passion and mania, also childish with a completely particular "perversion": only posters of popular film, the dregs of the product and article, the Z series. Titles that to hear them today would make you laugh, but up to twenty years ago they supported the economic luck of the Italian cinematographic industry. In those days the cinemas were full, the film could change from one day to another and the public were happy anyway. There wasn't the drug-like invadence of the TV, the cinema was a past-time and transgression, habit and relax.
Whatever was on the list. It was lovely, then the dizzyness, the lazyness of the body lost in magmatic tension the security of the dark cocoon that lit passions and desires, utopia at hand's reach. This was the real miracle: a drawn out western, a faded horror film, a noisy police, a tedious erotic, a watery comedy, a boring melodrama, an asphyxiating who done it, had the same energy in their insipidity, you could always find a magnetic hold, It could be a phrase, an outlandish sequence, a woman's body. It could be a furious duel, a never ending chase, a romantic kiss, a pre-show gag. How was, it possible to gain possession of such sensations how was it possible to continue seeing then, once the film was finished? Box everything inside your memory, store emotions and shivers, for example: but with risk of falling into the black holes of forgetfulness.
There was only way, however, to get hold of a piece of film, its icon, its image; the poster. That means the dead film, immobilised in its physical majesty, a tombstone picture soaked with illusions, a coloured frame to re-remember the story and bring to life, the beloved star, a paper movieola to pass and re-pass sentiments in slow motion. There were no video cassettes, twenty or twenty five years ago and the TV didn't swallow and throw out films in rapid succession, every hour. Now they are shown obsessively, until they are consumed, ruining the mysterious chemistry, the image of a film. Then, you could only trust the poster, to re savour the exciting rustle of that film that you had enjoyed so much and cried over, which had fascinated and worried. The poster was the only transport for the journey that had begun, the secret door towards another reality, that you could just perceive, a boiling of humours and vibrations. It was a promise of seduction, it was a bait to which your feel hearing and sight took; the poster called you to a malicious complicity, it knocked you back with a magnificent title that never maintained what it promised, it enchanted you with its bold colours and its big rough design, sulphur like, and electricising or unusually striking, original and refined.
Steal the poster, ask to borrow it and not give it back? Convince the cinema director to hang on to one, just for you "Yes, even the little one's please", sometimes looking in the rubbish bins, it was a cross eyed rite, governed by the unconscious passion a holy road, that challenged every cheeky person. The only consolation was that of being in good company.
Francois Truffault did it when in the film "Effetto Notte", he dreamed as a child of stealing the posters for "Quarto potere". As if it was an act of cannibalism a final way to possess the cinema. The poster is a glued film blocked and closed in the frame of the take.
If you close your eyes and then open them again, you will always find the object of your love in front of you, while the film moves, continues and automatically is transformed.
The poster is a taught muscle, frozen in its strain, it's the death of a film but also it's a resurrection, it's a relic and looks at us, who look at it. (..)
The game is to go and reveal the cast of films to discover names, now forgotten, or perhaps re valued by the critics, to once again find faces that in our youth hood dreams were raised as stars to come across the film seen many years ago, in who knows what cinema, and to recognise it, just as you would recognise an old childhood friend. The poster spoke to us, it talked and talked, it told us about a period that felt the severe cut of the censure. It privileged the woman "object", the man "presumptuous hero" with the jokes and the slap stick, pulsing with freedom and fantastic adventures. When it wasn't showing as an appetiser the hardest photogrammes and scenes in the film, the poster trusted to hoards of creative painters, who unfortunately have now been pensioned, the job of re-inventing the suggestiveness of the story. Something that teased, tickled and fooled the undecided spectator. To these genial poster designers goes the merit of having built up our imagination, to have trained our eye nerves to new perceptions.
A craftsman of quality, who lived in the shadow, an example of direct communication founded by the paintbrush and not the computer. In their works is the whole essence of the cinema world, it's being Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde at the same time, art and market, high quality painting and simple illustration, creative invention and stereotypes.
Memory rubble spiked by a sharp object, reflections and bright lights on a long way from drowsy emotions, these posters ask only to be looked at with the same happy, noisy thankfull spirit of the spectator of twenty years ago.
They too, simple sheets of paper, stuck on the walls for all to see, are part of the Great cinema family.

"The cinema narrated on walls"

A hundred years of cinema/ the Works of Italian masters on show in Rome.
For several decades they mark the first meeting with a film, and now they become a part.

By Silvia Di Paola. "Il Resto del Carlino", 24th November 1995

Rome- The cinema? It's a world of stories translated into preparatory drawings, about the same size as a school excercise book. It's a route you can get lost on for a handful of images, suddenly thrown into your eyes as spectator. That is of potential wanderer, Therefore as a greedy dreamer. (..)
Carmine Cianfrani, presidente of Anica said "Re-building the history of cinema through the work of cinema painters is a choice that no-one up till now, had thought of doing, at least not in such an ample and articulated way, and above all by using the original rough sketches and outlines, true works of art, rather than printed posters. It's understandable that this is the way that an insitution like Anica intends to fill in a large blank and the forgetfulness of men and their professionalism that has synthesised the embrace between art and enterprise.
It's known that the cinema has not had professionalism that has synthesised the meeting between art and enterprise. It's also known that the cinema has never stopped celebrating its directors, scenery designers, actors, playwrights, its photographers, its costume designers, its composers and its producers. But who remembers, today, the designers and these painters, who on a sheet of paper as large as two palms of a hand, expressed, up until the mid Seventies, the tentative of capturing and fascinating the public, through the exaltation of the creative elements of an atmosphere, and later, that unrenounceable hand-craft that is an essential component of the cinema even today in a computerised universe? Very few, a handful of cinema lovers and the usual workers.
However their drawings and their colours belong to everyone's memory. (..)

"Painters on the big screen"

 

By Giovanna Grassi. From "Corriere della Sera", 24th November 1995.

Cinema and painting, figurative vocation and narrative taste, a partnership tested by the pleasure of the eye. (..)
The relationship between the cinema and painting is very complex and is getting more complex in the age of the electronic image. Even cinema posters that often summarise a film in one single vulgar image have become very sophisticated.
In front of certain outlines and sketches of "yesterday", it would truly seem to really admire many "tableaux vivants" that bring back famous actors like Marlon Brando in Pontecorvo's "Quemada", Spencer Tracy in "Capitani Coraggiosi", Humphry Bogart "La Città è salva", Aldo Fabrizi in "Benvenuto Reverendo"; Romy Shneider in "Sissi a Ischia", Leslie Caron, unforgettable "Gigi", Charlton Heston on the chariot in "Ben Hur", the sweet toothed Ugo Tognazzi , Marcello Mastroianni, Michel Piccoli, Philippe Nooiret and Andrea Ferrol in "La grande abbuffata". The list is very long and rich in surprises but beside the films and the most known actors, who often in the iconing and the stroke, bring back all the fascination of their world of film stars of yesterday. It will be very interesting to find out the personalities and the careers of the paint brush artists. (..)

"Mum's foxes or Art and memory of the posters"

 By Franco La Polla. From "Eroi di Mille Leggende" 1993-Grafis Ediz.

The art of the cinematographic poster: concentrating a whole image, an entire plot, to reassume in one figure, all the others.
It's a general definition and in a sense abstract. Different from the film-which is what it is- in the case of foreign films, the poster adapts to the host culture, it denounces not only the dreams of the culture which conceived it, but also that which receives it.
In this sense the poster equals a popular write up a glance on the work that is not only cultured but vivacious, fresh, active, creative. It picks up the poetic essence, the sense of adventure, of shape, of fascination, the impression of a face. It does it by understanding the excessiveness, the rhetorical and the strength.
The poster assumes the difficult job of maintaining dramatic expressions and situations and must do it in the respect of phantoms that the hospitalising culture has laid; in the conscience of historical experience and the news account that the film doesn't necessarily give us: a sort of "double film" that reassumes the original one and at the same time keeps count of the fact that the potential spectator is different from the original one.
A thought of this kind needs a lot more than a few commemorative pages, and in this sense, studies in this direction have already commenced in Italy. Well conscious of this mechanism of cultural difference that is resolved in adjusting the details in the imagination, in the style and way of presentation of the image, whose iconic speech arouses the Figurative treasure of the posters and the cinema bills which for themselves have since a long time ago become part of the myth. What dreams does it recall, what notation does it suggest, what never told secrets does it hide?
The dominating part of the composition identifies itself in the right position of a drawn close-up and a full field photograph that usually portrays more than one actor. It's like serving the spectator a free sample of that which can be found in the film and one that is in fact an oneiric distortion. Nothing surrealistic, but a sort of trusted filter to adjust too much colour, (nearly always blue and red). In other words, the poster adapts itself to the imagination of the cinema, and it immediately denounces it. What's more, with such repetition to make impossible the suspect of a specification in this film John Wayne has this imaginative valence) but to transmit immediately and intensely this is the way the actor or actress will remain, as they already are- in our imagination, independently from the part they play in each singular film.
The poster therefore is a celebration of the acting myth (or more broadly, cinematographic) and as such intends to attract the spectator, to prompt his fantasy and his memory. (..)

"The Nose on the Poster"

By Milo Manara from "Eroi di Mille Leggende" 1993-Grafis-Ediz

When I was a child I thought that cinema poster designers were the biggest painters who ever existed in time, better than Michelangelo and Van Gogh.
There was so much strength and so much realism in those "pictures" that I was completely subjugated. They fascinated me more than the films themselves. I knew well enough that later, going to see the film, I wouldn't have found such eloquent scenes. In such symbolic scenes that were represented by strong and dramatic colours, was enclosed more than what the film could have told in in an hour and a half.
The poster was real, it was an object, it wasn't a fast running image, that you could not ever completely look at as liked. You could look and re-look at the poster until you wanted to. You could let yourself go in the tentative of penetrating the mystery of the brilliantness of certain lips, in a shine of certain eyes, the figures were never representated in banal, -normal or everyday poses. They were always heroes shown in their finest gests.
You could always get up close to a poster, you could almost touch it with your nose and there, the quick knowing,-, strokes of the brush could not be seen. They mixed one with the other in confused coloured masses made up of dots that seen from so close, lived their own autosufficient secret reality, apart from everything.
I used to believe that 1 was the only one to have discovered these marvels. Others limited themselves to reading the words. No one knew about that mass of dots down there. I never had the courage to tear off a piece of poster, to take it home, but other boys did and it happened once, that a boy while tearing a poster divided in half the face that interested him, and deluded threw the remains away. Obviously, 1 picked it up and took it home. It was an object that didn't look anything like a piece of paper, with an impressive thickness made up of various successive layers that, would you believe, on-the back still preserved the marks of the wall. I kept it for a long time, fascinated by the dots.

"Eroi di Mille Leggende"

By Concetto Pozzati. Assessore alla Cultura del Comune di Bologna; 1993 - Grafis Ediz.

(..) Faces, parades, additions, sequences; "Lo scassinatore", "Il ladro", "La strada", "Tarzan", "La magnifica preda", "Senso", drums (far away?) and calls, "La fuga", "L'ultimo atto", invasion ultimatum, great out of scale, "Verità ... quasi nuda", eyes, again eyes and hands, arabesqued and wrapped shapes, titles, shadowed and geometrical characters.
I am still a painter; am I fugitive? or "The Giant" with J. Dean takes me back to the greatness of that grand 'pop' which is J. Dijne.
How can I forget the cinematographic images which have been our iconoclastic training ground of the Seventies?
Yes, it is known, I am the son and nephew of two of the grandest intentional poster designers (and artists).
They, as well, did not only publicity, that is attraction, advertising, manifest diffusion, messages. It wasn't yet advertising specialisation, maybe not principal vulgarisation and promotion. But their 'tableaux' were stuck and placed in the museum that was the street , made and created for everyone and seen by everyone.
They were 'Pop' before we, pop. But already that 'popular', pop wasn't simple glorification of the merchandise, but the very sign, the image was reduced to goods and not pure illustration of the product. But pops have led to a different sign, the common sign of the merchandise because they've primed a discarding, a different valence. But even these 'uncles', less known relatives, authors of these cinematographic posters, even without producing a surplus, are forced to illustrate their product capability, because they've generated the popular as well.
A lowly language as regards to an élite language? (..)

"The Painted Cinema"

The poster, a work of art

By Priscilla Del Ninno. "Secolo d'Italia", 10th June 1995

From "La Strada" by Fellini to "Sentieri Selvaggi" by John Ford passing through "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "My Fair Lady", these, especially the latter two films, more than any others, have immortalised the delightful Audrey Hepburn, who lives in flesh and blood, a long, emotional sequence.
Western scenery, horror scenes, women's portraits, the cinema poster shows the scenes, the famous faces of the most famous films. In this exhibition, the elegance and the style of two big Italian cinema poster painters, Giuliano Nistri (La strada, My Fair Lady) and Enzo Nistri (Breakfast at Tiffany's, Sentieri Selvaggi) stand out from the rest.

"Il Cinema Dipinto"

Palazzo delle Esposizioni Roma, 22nd November 1995

By Carmine Cianfarani, Anica's President

From always the cinema celebrates its authors, directors, actors, directors of photography, composers, scenery designers, costume designers, producers, distributors and other important professional and technical figures, but never those whom for this sector have given their own painting art to represent it and narrate it to the public.
We are talking about very talented artists who, through their work, concur to create the image of a film, contributing to its success.
We are talking about painters who deserve more greater attention and artistic consideration in an absolute way. Cinematographic painting can be considered the expression of synthesis of the meeting between art and business, inside the conception of the cinema which bas to make itself the image of the sector, as reality which develops artistic technical and contracting forces.
It is in fact clear that cinematographic painting, at least until the first half of the Sixties, has expressed the highest point of its communicational and promotional action, whose aim is to fascinate and capture the public, through the elation of cinematographic atmospheres and situations, which only a true artist is able to pick out and enhance in a unique pictorial representation.
So with this initiative we want to celebrate the Cinema, but also the pictorial Art which is expressed in it and which contributes with its lines, shades and shapes, to strengthen the cinematographic culture in our Country and in the world. (...)

"How I Publicize the Publicity"

By Franco Montini. From "Il Venerdì" di Repubblica, 28-4-1995

Rome. The most beautiful definition was coined by Fellini: "Cinematographic posters" he said "are like popular songs: they take you back to certain moments of your life, preventing you from losing them. They take you back not only to the film, but to their season, the atmosphere and the taste of an era."
That's true: the cinematographic poster is always child of it’s days, it stands out from other kinds of publicity because it's a summary of moods, tastes, images, sounds and atmosphere of a certain period. It's a kind of mirror where customs, fashion and characters reflect. That's why, as the years go by, cinematographic posters whether they'-re nice or ugly, original or banal, interesting or evocative gain a special appeal. From this point, the birth of a collection with high quotations and the arrival in the temples of art. In Rome at the Mascheríno gallery, until the 27th May the exhibition "The painted cinema" with posters, original outlines, preparatory sketches, drawings, signed by about thirty historical artists, has success.Together with professional poster designers, there are illustrious painters who have occasionally dedicated themselves to cinema: from Guttuso, whose picture for "Riso Amaro" is exposed, to Cagli, designer of a rare poster of "Accattone"- from Vespignani involved by Francesco Rosi for "I Magliari"', to Cambellotti whose posters from the beginning of the century, "Frate Sole" and "I condottieri", can be admired. Mascherino's exhibition, open in the afternoon from Wednesday to Saturday, was born from an in-depth research between collectors, cinematographic studios the very poster designers or their heirs. The largest part of the originals, in fact, have been lost, who knows where; and for a long period nobody bothered to keep outlines and sketches, which most of the time ended up rotting in deposits and damp basements. Not even the people who were directly interested had the ability to foresee that their drawings would have become valuable goods, maybe because for years they were scarsly considered by purchasers.
The number of cinema's poster designers, even in the golden years of film consumption was meagre: the job needed quick terms of realisation, a nearly absolute availability, it wasn't economically remunerative and lacked personal satisfactions.
And yet in the pre-television period the cinematographic poster was the only means to promote a film and to inform the public. Recognisable, immediate, flashy, the publicity allowed a clear distinction between . the good and' the bad, protagonist and antagonist. It had to make you dream and move desire: important is the theme of eroticism ; on the publicity of the '30s, '40s , '50s, independently from the theme, sex bombs, busty beauties, ambiguous poses and uncontrollable passions triumphed.
The star system celebrates its own success with gigantic pictures of actors and actresses who appear even more good looking, more fascinating and desirable than they really are.
But the publicity also elaborated the function of the ballad singer's poster, summarising in a few scenes the main moments of the story, clearly pointing out through some fetish objects (a gun, a sword, a knife) the kind of film.
For about 20 years, from the beginning of the '30s to the end of the '40s , Ballester, Capitani e Martinati exerted a sort of monopoly. Only after the war others showed up: Ercole Brini, Rinaldo Geleng, a big friend of Fellini, Enrico De Seta, a caricaturist who worked with Fellini for "Marc'Aurelio", Angelo Casselon, the portraitist prince of our cinema, Manfredo Acerbo, the most innovative, Silvano Campeggi who, signs himself as Nano, Ermanno Iaia, the brothers Giuliano and Enzo Nistri, some of them still work, but as painters, because cinema posters continue to be made, but photography has substituted the stroke of the brush, and the charm of long ago has been lost.

"The Painted Cinema"

By Stefano Dello Schiavo, Galleria d'Arte Mascherino, Roma

(..) The artists of the posters manage, with an infinity of solutions, to magically mix illustrations, titles, mounting of images and colours to realise that which the scope of the poster, to show the main point of the film and at the same time, hit the attention of the public, thanks to the ability of some artists, a surprising effect has been achieved.
While some films during the years have been forgotten, the posters of these films have assumed a different fascination and light, reflecting customs, styles and the period in which they were done, this way becoming part of our cultural heritage. (..)

"Introduction" from "Eroi di mille leggende"

By Ezio Raimondi, Presidente dell'Istituto per i Beni Culturali della Regione Emilia Romagna, 1993 - Grafis Ediz.

(..) It's without doubt that in the distinction between "high" and "low" culture, between the major and the minor arts, the cinema posters hold their own as a cultural heritage, a cultural heritage to keep and conserve, to study and catalogue, not only as a precious document support for the history of the cinema, but also as artistic expression, an encyclopaedia in instalments, of the images of a period still close to us, but already object of memories and nostalgia when, before the coming of television, the cinema poster was the only publicity instrument the film distributors could use.
But it must be said that it was only apparently poor and schematic: in reality as Antonio Faeti acutely explained in a catalogue, they are extremely efficient, of great suggestion and evocative force. This is demonstrated also by the personal autobiography of Federico Fellini and Milo Manara and by the "inside" testimony of the inventive Silvano Campeggi.
It's worth our while to give our attention to the "whole" shapes, composition techniques, graphic solutions of these quick stories, told on a page, re discovering the mechanism that governs the capacity to condense the story and the complex narration in one image, immediately significant, a relationship of happy complicity that was always installed with a diverse range of public. (..)

"Introduction" from "Eroi di mille leggende"

By Ezio Raimondi, Presidente dell'Istituto per i Beni Culturali della Regione Emilia Romagna, 1993 - Grafis Ediz.

(..) It's without doubt that in the distinction between "high" and "low" culture, between the major and the minor arts, the cinema posters hold their own as a cultural heritage, a cultural heritage to keep and conserve, to study and catalogue, not only as a precious document support for the history of the cinema, but also as artistic expression, an encyclopaedia in instalments, of the images of a period still close to us, but already object of memories and nostalgia when, before the coming of television, the cinema poster was the only publicity instrument the film distributors could use.
But it must be said that it was only apparently poor and schematic: in reality as Antonio Faeti acutely explained in a catalogue, they are extremely efficient, of great suggestion and evocative force. This is demonstrated also by the personal autobiography of Federico Fellini and Milo Manara and by the "inside" testimony of the inventive Silvano Campeggi.
It's worth our while to give our attention to the "whole" shapes, composition techniques, graphic solutions of these quick stories, told on a page, re discovering the mechanism that governs the capacity to condense the story and the complex narration in one image, immediately significant, a relationship of happy complicity that was always installed with a diverse range of public. (..)

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