The stories change, but a through-line exists from poster to poster that feels reminiscent of his approach to filmmaking. They spend less time interested in visual tricks or artistic flare, casting aside color in favor of the clarity offered by the contrast between black and white. While the posters themselves share certain stylistic practices of the period they were born out of (United Artist’s one-sheets for “Last Tango in Paris” and “The Passenger” reveal similar stylistic notes being played), taken in as a whole they reveal a distinct visual identity thoroughly appropriate for a director unconcerned with the seductions of style. Typography takes a more prominent role, with actor names highlighted more than what you’d find in your typical film poster, while the imagery used is often simple, with a single still photograph highlighting a mood or through a graphic symbol that brand’s a film’s identity. Lavishness is underplayed, with the few visual flourishes mostly being afforded to the film’s title.
This approach, of course, pairs nicely with Allen’s signature opening titles—black screen with white type set in Windsor Light with classical or jazz music playing—as they forgo certain stylistic choices and bind the movies together. They set the stage in an understated way as if to say “You are about to watch a Woody Allen film.”
While the posters for Annie Hall and Manhattan mean the most to me personally, I especially love the Zelig poster. I remember seeing it before seeing the movie and not getting it but now I look it and revel in its brilliance.
Also be sure to look through the international versions the site published as well—really fun and completely different than their American counterparts.
And that’s why I’ve been talking only about you and the tension within you, because you are—not in a clichéd sense, but in a weirdly literal sense—the future. After you walk up here and walk back down, you’re going to be the present. You will be the broken world and the act of changing it, in a way that you haven’t been before. You will be so many things, and the one thing that I wish I’d known and want to say is, don’t just be yourself. Be all of yourselves. Don’t just live. Be that other thing connected to death. Be life. Live all of your life. Understand it, see it, appreciate it. And have fun.
“So what I finally decided was, art is simply inevitable. It was on the wall of a cave in France 30,000 years ago, and it’s because we are a species that’s driven by narrative. Art is storytelling, and we need to tell stories to pass along ideas and information, and to try and make sense out of all this chaos. And sometimes when you get a really good artist and a compelling story, you can almost achieve that thing that’s impossible which is entering the consciousness of another human being—literally seeing the world the way they see it. Then, if you have a really good piece of art and a really good artist, you are altered in some way, and so the experience is transformative and in the minute you’re experiencing that piece of art, you’re not alone. You’re connected to the arts. So I feel like that can’t be too bad.”
Vulture has a super interesting interview with director Steven Soderbergh on his retirement from Hollywood. I especially liked this bit on his ability to get films made:
On the few occasions where I’ve talked to film students, one of the things I stress, in addition to learning your craft, is how you behave as a person. For the most part, our lives are about telling stories. So I ask them, “What are the stories you want people to tell about you?” Because at a certain point, your ability to get a job could turn on the stories people tell about you. The reason [then–Universal Pictures chief] Casey Silver put me up for [1998’s] Out of Sight after I’d had five flops in a row was because he liked me personally. He also knew I was a responsible filmmaker, and if I got that job, the next time he’d see me was when we screened the movie. If I’m an asshole, then I don’t get that job. Character counts. That’s a long way of saying, “If you can be known as someone who can attract talent, that’s a big plus.”
“I have a way of filming things and staging them and designing sets. There were times when I thought I should change my approach, but in fact, this is what I like to do. It’s sort of like my handwriting as a movie director. And somewhere along the way, I think I’ve made the decision: I’m going to write in my own handwriting. That’s just sort of my way.”
I don’t know exactly where or when I first came across the work of Hillman Curtis. I have a distinct memory of watching his Stefan Sagmeister film sometime during my senior year of high school. I proceeded to watch the rest oh his Artists Series, each of which left me inspired as I left for college and started my journey to graphic design.
I found myself returning to the films every few months during my first two years of school and having discussions with professors that derived from Hillman’s work. When I dabbled in film a few years ago, his short films were an inspiration. I know a lot of designers feel the same way and it was truly amazing to watch the outpouring of love and memories on Twitter through out the day.
Hillman died today after a long battle with colon cancer. He was 51.
The New York Times has a great profile on George Lucas and his desire to return to more personal “art-house” films and retire from the commercial films he is known for. I’ve been thinking about this separation between commercial work and personal work lately, after reading this interview with Nick Knight where he says there is no difference in the work he does for himself and the work he does for clients. This piece on Lucas seems to suggest the same thing:
But you wonder if this view — the commercial versus the personal, the blockbuster versus the experimental art film — is as reductive as the 1970s model. In fact, Lucas has always made personal films, just not in the traditional sense. The very first time Lucas showed “Star Wars” to friends, with World War II movie dogfights standing in for the unfinished effects, Spielberg is reported to have said, “That movie is going to make $100 million, and I’ll tell you why — it has a marvelous innocence and naїveté in it, which is George, and people will love it.”
We inject ourselves into all the work we produce, whether it’s for ourselves or for someone else. The line between commercial and personal isn’t as definite as it sometimes seems.
Tell the audience there is a bomb under that table and will go off in five minutes. The whole emotion of the audience is totally different because in five minutes time that bomb will go. Now that conversation about baseball becomes very vital. Because now they are saying don’t talk about baseball there is a bomb under there! Now the only difference is, and I’ve been guilty of the sabotage of making a picture but I’ve never made it since: the bomb must never go off.
“I like the idea that the story changes over time even though nothing has changed on the outside. What’s changed is all in my head and has to do with a realisation on my character’s part. And the story can only be told in a particular form. It can’t be told in a painting. The point is: it’s very important that what you do is specific to the medium in which you’re doing it, and that you utilise what is specific about that medium to do the work. And if you can’t think about why it should be done this way, then it doesn’t need to be done.”
In the making of The Godfather, writer and director Francis Ford Coppola kept a massive “prompt book” where he kept all his notes in the development of the movie as well as what would need to go into every single scene so the movie would not fail:
In theatre, there’s something called a prompt book. The prompt book is what the stage manager has, usually a loose-leaf book with all the lighting cues. I make a prompt book out of the novel. In other words, I break the novel, and I glue the pages in a loose-leaf, usually with the square cutout so I can see both sides.
I have that big book with the notes I took, and then I go and I put lots more observations and notes. Then I begin to go through that and summarize the part that I thought was useful. And quite naturally you’ll see that the parts fall away, or that you have too many characters, so you know that you have to eliminate some or combine some. Working on it this way, from the outside in, being more specific as to what you think… then when you finish that, you are qualified perhaps to try to write a draft based on that notebook.
In the case of “The Godfather” I did that, and although I had a screenplay, I never used it. I always used to take that big notebook around with me, and I made the movie from that notebook.
Short piece from The Guardian on Woody Allen’s favorite typeface:
"He adored Windsor-EF-Elongated. He idolised it out of all proportion." Uh, no. Make that, "He romanticised it out of all proportion." Oh, and it might have been a heavier weight of EF Windsor Light Condensed rather than EF Elongated.
If my admiration for Allen wasn’t enough, I also love filmmakers who are obsessive about typefaces: Kubrick, Wes Anderson, J.J. Abrams. I love this story about how Allen came to start using Windsor:
The story goes that Allen was looking for a typeface for Love and Death (1975). At the time he ate breakfast in the same New Jersey diner as Ed Benguiat, the great American typographer (and jazz percussionist), who recommended Windsor. Allen liked it, and that was that. Windsor became a signature of his films, along with old jazz tunes, thick-framed specs, fast-paced dialogue and neurosis.
By the articles count, Windsor has been used in 36 of his 46 films, which sounds about right to me. I’ve always felt if I start a Woody Allen movie and the first thing I see isn’t Windsor, set in white on a black background, it’s just not a complete Woody Allen experience.