How do you market a witty, wordy, intellectual French ensemble comedy these days? Olivier Assayas’s Non-Fiction, which opens in the U.S. today, has an unusual variety of international posters. In this age of marketing homogenization it’s surprising to see quite so many different looks for one film, but more than anything that may be the result of distributors’ inability to decide exactly how to market such a film. You’ve got Juliette Binoche, who always looks good on posters, but she’s not the sole star of the film, which deals with life and love in the publishing world as it wobbles into the digital age; not the easiest thing to capture with stills of actors smiling at each other (even though that’s what many of these posters try to do).
The original French poster, the best of them all, features a charming illustration by Stéphane Manel of the five main characters tumbling out of the pages of a book, with an old-fashioned typewriter and a new-fashioned tablet as additional signifiers (Assayas’s original title for the film was “E-Book”). The new American poster, also illustrated, puts the five characters in bed, Bob-&-Carol-&-Ted-&-Alice-style, because sex sells after all, although there are still books on the bed and the tagline “a comedy about current affairs” tells you that the sex may be more of an after-thought.
Of all the international posters, the Italians may have come up with the most interesting concepts. Their teaser poster (the film premiered at Venice last August) was just an e-book with both the French and English titles (in France and various other countries the film is called “Double Lives”). For the theatrical release the poster diagrams the various relationships in a similar way to the catherine-wheel formation of the overlapping bookish lovers in the U.S. poster. The new Italian title translates as “The game of couples” and the tagline reads “A Parisian comedy in the age of Whatsapp.”
The South Korean poster places photos of four of the main characters on the slipcase of a hardbound book, an interesting concept that could have been better executed (the photos don’t look at all as if they are printed on that slipcase and it’s hard to see that it even is a book on first glance) but it gets across the literary angle.
The German and
Russian Ukrainian [thanks to Oleh Butkov for the correction] posters simply stack a pile of books in the corner of the poster to tell you that this is not just a film that stars Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet.
And the Spanish and Swedish posters forgo books for Parisian skyline signifiers instead. The Spanish poster uses a pull-quote that calls it “a Woody Allen comedy but with much more wine” and even goes so far as to use Woody’s favorite title font, Windsor Light Condensed, for the title, as did the Italian poster above. (Also of note: the Swedish title translates as “Between the Lines,” as does the German.)
The Polish and Norwegian posters forgo all helpful signifiers or taglines for simply photos of the cast, yet notably different type treatments. (The Norwegians also go for a translation of “Between the Lines” while the Polish title is “Double Lives.”)
And then there are three territories—Brazil, Australia and South Korea again—that use variations on the same image: just Binoche and Canet drinking chocolat chaud late at night. None of these three posters tell you anything about publishing or technology, or literature or Paris, or sex or wine, but perhaps just two attractive French stars having a late night conversation is all you need.
You can read Notebook’s review of Non-Fiction here and Daniel Kasman’s interview with Olivier Assayas here. And if anyone finds any other markedly different international variations please let me know in the comments below.
Postscript: Interestingly, Sundance Selects went with a different campaign for their opening New York Times ad, ditching the Bob & Carol-esque illustration for a near copy of the Spanish poster, minus the Woody Allen references and with a different, harder-edged diagram of Paris landmarks.