It’s sequels galore this summer, from alien robots to comic book heroes new and old. Five June Fridays are thus necessary––nothing else would be able to elbow their way in without them. So for those lucky enough to live in a market where qualifying runs and arthouses can still survive without bending to crazy studio quotas, I hope you’ll get to enjoy a few of the below posters in-person. The rest of us will have to get our fill now and wait for them to pop back up on the VOD / streaming cycle. If you find yourself thinking “I know that one!” a couple weeks from now, the artists have done their job.
Out of focus
Despite including it here, BLT Communications, LLC’s Asteroid City (limited, June 16; wide, June 23) is not out-of-focus. I don’t think Wes Anderson would allow it. Instead, much like the posters for Moonrise Kingdom and The French Dispatch, we get a massive scene with every character involved all at once. It’s not as blatantly Photoshopped as the former or collaged as the latter, but there’s definitely an air of artifice to those figures standing in the back row. What’s weirdest to me is just how much empty space is present above the cliff face behind them. These posters usually fill up every inch with their infinite cast lists. Having them let things breathe is a nice change of pace.
We’re able to focus on the people more without such distraction. We can read the cast names if we want without feeling obligated, and spend time with the characters before moving onto the title without being assault by a barrage of floating text. It’s still a bit cartoonish and affected like all of Anderson’s work, but it seems less oppressive in a way that lets the whimsy shine through.
This is especially true for the teaser and its desert expanse, with billboard that looks ripped out of a Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner short. There’s a meticulousness that tells you exactly who the director is as well as a sense of possibility, courtesy the open outdoors. It’s a travel brochure to catch your eye at a rest stop.
Rather than be so clear that it becomes unreal, the designers of Pollen (limited, June 6) provide a shallow focus that ensures our attention is drawn exactly where they want it. While most instances like this would blur the background so we can devote our brain power to the subject in the foreground, however, this one does the opposite: the woman is still our focal point as a result of the depth of field, but there exists an additional layer of mystery to the whole.
Why is she blurred? Why can’t our eyes adjust? Add the title and you must wonder if the image is alluding to our being drugged. The pollen in the air has impaired us to the point where we cannot trust what it is we see. Was she ever really there?
Anonymous Sister (limited, June 2) uses blur in a similar way, seeking to depict the notion that someone who is physically present might not truly be altogether there. It’s a powerful image representing what filmmaker Jamie Boyle felt as her mother and sister fell under a cloud of addiction courtesy the opioid epidemic. Not only is the older girl fading out of existence, but she’s also falling out of frame. She’s being lost by time with the younger girl straining to see her before she’s completely gone.
The rest of the layout is perfectly balanced to counter the whole being so heavily weighted to the bottom-right corner. The first word of the title (and festival laurel) stays bold and black to offset those girls; the rest of the text remains small and / or faded to keep everything on a diagonal line, like an arrow pulling us through the page.
With a look
It may not seem like much, but that’s part of the effectiveness of Intermission Film’s Blue Jean (limited, June 9). When you have an image as captivating as Rosy McEwen staring back at us, you don’t really need much more. Suddenly the job becomes about maintaining that eye contact. Augmenting it. The typography and layout around her face becomes paramount.
So the firm stretches out the credit box to lessen its height and anchor the bottom while laurels get pushed to the sides to create a gap from which her neck can rise. The critic blurbs are reduced to brief platitudes; stars take centerstage so they can be pushed to the top and away from her face. Which therefore leaves the title. They could have stacked its words in the gap at the bottom or awkwardly squeezed it onto her hair, but chose to use it instead. By expanding the kerning to go edge-to-edge, it becomes a third horizontal line to balance the whole and steal focus as the boldest and brightest. Separating the words turns them into highlights for her cheekbones, avoiding the nose to push our eyes towards hers. To read the title is to get lost in her gaze.
BLT Communications, LLC’s Past Lives (limited, June 2; wide, June 23) is less intense by design. There’s no fear of being outed or plea for empathy here. This is a straightforward romance between two people falling in love. The look is thus shared by them rather than us. We’re merely observers noticing their attraction and longing for each other. It’s present in their subtle smiles. Their hands almost touching. The intense stare. Everything else fades away.
And that’s intentional when it comes to the credit block and critic quote. Those are there because they need to be––read them at your leisure. They shouldn’t garner our attention. Especially not when so much is being said by the actors’ eyes. The only words we truly need are those of the title, stacked and centered as a sort of unspoken conversation in the gap separating them. Even as it pops, however, its placement on that subway pole’s y-axis (like all the other text) ensures it remains a secondary prop.
Intermission Film’s Millie Lies Low (limited, June 30) arrives as a sort-of hybrid of these two. We get Ana Scotney’s telling stare, but also an obvious y-axis to direct our sight. Whereas the subway pole above was utilized as a divider to give its characters equal footing and stronger focus, however, this one moves off-center to create a boundary that drives our view sideways. Whether you look at her first or the title, both eventually bring you to that edge––pushing you into the foreground in the former’s case and wrapping you around to the background in the latter’s. An illusion of depth is created, turning this very minimalist and flat image into a scene we can enter.
It does so without sacrificing the stark composition and expert typography. Since it’s all being done with a manipulation of the solid yellow, no drop shadows or knockouts are needed for legibility. Accordingly the black text isn’t “floating.” Reading it actually removes that illusory depth completely to revert back to a printed a page. Only when you engage with those elements interacting with that invisible vertical line does the whole separate back into its layers.
No stars needed
The poster for documentary After Sherman (NYC, June 2) is quite powerful. Though they could have put filmmaker Jon Sesrie Goff front and center––the story is about his inheritance and generational trauma as a part of America’s dark history––it was chosen to go with a gorgeous watercolor that evokes the emotions of that truth instead. The heavy, clouded colors. The idea of that land holding the memory, blood, and tears of the slaves who worked it. The inability to separate what was done from what might happen next. Past and future are inextricably linked.
I love that the image is also allowed to exist on its own. By pushing all text to the bottom, the painting becomes isolated, like a print of it would on a page all by itself––artist signature and edition number subsequently added to the bottom corners respectively. The positioning also guarantees we look at the reality of its subject. That we move from the land’s surface down through its ghosts and finally to the title. The impact of that journey cannot be diminished.
Ricky D’ Ambrose’s Happer’s Comet (limited, June 16) is much less obvious in its depiction. To look at it without context is to see tiled windows peering into the night sky with the vapor trails of a highway––if not celestial body, as the title suggests. To know more about the film itself is to perhaps see those lines as rollerblade tracks swooping through a town, each rectangle being a different section containing its own unique yet related story.
There’s something to the imperfections too that make the whole stick in your mind. The poorly masked edges becoming a feature of the imagery’s abstraction. Because the rest is so meticulous––from the sans serif font to the symmetrical construction of shapes to the purposeful crop off the top edge. It becomes a piece unto itself. An artwork that earns your attention with its emotionality and, later, its understanding via the experience of watching the film to process those initial feelings into something tangible. Something personal.
And then there’s the mesmerizing Falcon Lake (limited, June 2) by Caspar Newbolt and Version Industries. It’s a behind-the-scenes shot of a scene wherein Sara Montpetit’s character is taking a photograph of Joseph Engel across the water. What feels like harmless fun in that moment now seems ominous with its supernatural filter of light—an effect that the artist says was created by capturing a light source with a grease-smeared camera lens. Even more so, too, when you watch the ending of the movie and recontextualize what came before as far as fate and trust and truth are concerned.
Beyond any meaning projected in hindsight, however, is also just a stunning bit of fantastical mystery. You read the tagline “A love and ghost story” and manufacture meaning to that glow as being from a different plane of existence. Follow the blurred lines and you wonder if it could be some alien sent from above that landed at the lake to peer into our soul. Curious. Judgmental. Or perhaps simply a mirror. The old-fashioned typeface and heavy grain add the perfect amount of character and mythology to ensure what we’re seeing isn’t a scene from today, but the echo of one from yesterday… or perhaps tomorrow.