books

George Lucas introduces a century of classic movie poster masterpieces

In time for the Christmas coffee table books wish-list considerations, the esteemed French art publishing maison Citadelles & Mazenod has released a tentalizing treat for movie and design lovers. Titled simply Affiches de Cinéma, the oversize tome provides a peek inside the remarkable collection of author Dominique Besson, Paris' go-to authority on vintage movie posters.
In straightforward chronological order, the lavish book offers a visual history of film through a study of the endangered "art of the poster", often referenced and most notably explored by Guy Peellaert while tirelessly working on the Las Vegas : The Big Room series of portraits between 1976 and 1986. Starting with the first "optical theatre" ads of the late 19th Century, the famed Cinématographe from Louis Lumière and the pioneers of the silent era, Busson handpicks a comprehensive selection of arresting images and titles and promotional tag lines, in a mélange that conjures up the commercial nature of a peculiar art form—or is it the artistic nature of a peculiar commerce. George Lucas, a longtime Besson client, has been tapped to deliver a succint but evocative introduction : the Star Wars creator reminisces about a not-so-distant pre-internet, even pre-television galaxy where these powerful compositions had a unique mission to "capture the spirit, entice and sum up in a single striking  image a one or two hour film that had been months and years in the making."

In 1976, fresh off the success of Rock Dreams and several high-profile rock collaborations, Peellaert was commissioned by director Martin Scorsese to create the poster artwork for Taxi Driver. The artist produced an indelible image of the once-gritty Manhattan streets, rife with a palpable sense of danger and social unrest, in which he superimposed his own body onto a portrait of Robert de Niro.

As perhaps the most illustrious specimen in a particularly inspiring chapter devoted to the French Nouvelle Vague and the "New Hollywood" of the 1970s, the original Taxi Driver one-sheet artwork is the sole Peellaert image featured in this collection, but it is nevertheless one of the finest reproductions in recent memory and takes full advantage of the book's oversize format.
If one might regret the notable omission of Peellaert's Wim Wenders period—Besson focuses almost exclusively on universally popular films—a section on post-war cinema does allow for an appreciation of some of the artist's nostalgic references during the making of such classic images as Paris Texas or Wings of Desire. The distinctive brush strokes of film noir artworks, or the unique way actors' faces are painted from photographs into a seductive, compelling hybrid of two mediums seemingly engaged in a kind of historic battle for survival—from which the photographic image would eventually emerge as the undisputed victor : these are interesting clues indeed, and they lead up to an insightful epilogue : will interactive billboards and 24/7 marketing confine these masterpieces of "popular art" to the realm of museums ? They already have, actually, and it turns out to be a great chance for those (still relatively rare) institutions that recognize today's ever-amplifying appreciation for the art forms formerly known as "low".

The Adventures of Jodelle now available to preorder

Guy Peellaert's  The Adventures of Jodelle  (1966) is  widely regarded as the first graphic novel to emerge from the Pop-Art movement. This image was used on the cover of the book's German edition.

Guy Peellaert's The Adventures of Jodelle (1966) is  widely regarded as the first graphic novel to emerge from the Pop-Art movement. This image was used on the cover of the book's German edition.

The long-awaited, long-delayed remastered edition of The Adventures of Jodelle, initially scheduled for a mid-2012 release and previously featured on the cover of Fantagraphics' spring-summer catalogue, will finally go on sale on February 3rd. In the meantime, you can start pre-ordering your copy from Amazon.

The reason it all took so long? The oversize volume not only offers the painstakingly remastered, retranslated American edition of the 1966 pop art classic and a new essay by the great Pierre Sterckx, it also includes the complete book-within-the-book Guy Peellaert: Fragments of the Pop Years, which spotlights a fascinating, seminal phase in the artist's career. Culled from the Estate's archive, these Fragments provide the first extensive overview of the artist's work throughout the 1960s, from his early years as an advertising dropout in Belgium to the groundbreaking release of Jodelle and the subsequent move to Paris, where Peellaert took the European Pop avant-garde by storm with his indelible heroine Pravda in 1967.

While Jodelle and Pravda are familiar tentpoles of the artist's so-called Pop Years, a whirlwind of previously unpublished experimentations encompassing theatre, film, television, comics and fashion is explored here for the first time, including collaborations with such era-defining characters as Serge Gainsbourg, Yves Saint Laurent, César, William Klein, or Jean-Christophe Averty.

Available exclusively as part of this first reissue of The Adventures of Jodelle in nearly 50 years, Fragments of the Pop Years marks the Estate's first major publication since Peellaert's passing in 2008, and we hope it will help shed new light on the influence of the artist's pre-Rock Dreams accomplishments.

The Roman Empire meets Las Vegas in the striking compositions of Jodelle, where various recognizable personalities make anecdotal cameo appearances (here, Pope Paul VI and President Lyndon B. Johnson driving together in the bottom left corner) in an interpretation of modernity as a gridlock pattern of casually iconic signs.