It is common knowledge that Martin Scorsese has impeccable taste when it comes to movies, but, starting tomorrow, the Museum of Modern Art in New York will display the director’s exquisite taste in movie poster art too.
Scorsese Collects brings together 34 of the most prized items in his reportedly vast collection. There are posters for many of Marty’s avowed favorite directors: Kazan and Kubrick, Ford and Franju, Mann and Melville, Siegel and Sturges, and, especially, Jacques Tourneur, Max Ophüls and Michael Powell, who each get practically a wall to themselves.
But the stars here are really the poster artists, and curators Dave Kehr and Ron Magliozzi have assembled works by many of the greats (many of whom are Movie Poster of the Week favorites too) such as Peter Strausfeld, Anselmo Ballester, René Péron, Jean Mascii, Guy Gérard Noël, Osvaldo Venturi and Boris Grinsson.
The highlight of the show for me is an enormous French 4-panel poster, over 10 feet wide, for the 1932 aviation drama The Lost Squadron (which is attributed to René Péron, although it is not signed). It is a treat merely to see one of these giants in the flesh, and Péron’s dynamic, Deco-inspired design dominates the entrance to the exhibit. Another outsized highlight greets you at the foot of the elevator: a rare British six-sheet poster for Powell & Pressburger’s Tales of Hoffmann by artist Marc Stone which leads into a wall of Anselmo Ballester’s florid Italian designs for Powell.
Though it is a great pleasure to see some old favorites in person like Guy Gérard Noël’s The Killers (pictured at the top), Ballester’s On the Waterfront and Jean Mascii’s Eyes without a Face (both above), there are also some revelations that I’d never seen before like a vibrant French design by Jacques Bonneaud for Anthony Mann’s T-Men (French title: La Brigade du Suicide), and a beautiful 1915 one sheet for Raoul Walsh’s Regeneration.
Posters from France and Italy dominate the selection, along with a number from the US and the UK. There is only one poster for a Scorsese film in the exhibition, and that is Peter Strausfeld’s much sought after UK quad for Mean Streets. I’ve written about Strausfeld’s unique woodcut designs for the Academy Cinema before, but this may have been the first time I’d seen the originals—MoMA has three of them in a row—which are even more striking than I expected.
Another arresting grouping are three posters for the films of Jacques Tourneur—two of which are pictured below—all painted in a very distinctive style by an in-house RKO artist whose name has been lost to time.