MIDNIGHT EXCESS: Interview with poster designer Aleksander Walijewski

SUPAKINO supremo Ranjit S. Ruprai commissions new artwork for all his indie screenings. RADIANT CIRCUS chatted with artist Aleksander Walijewski about his work for Ranjit’s latest collab with Zodiac Film Club – MIDNIGHT EXCESS: THE STUD/THE BITCH (16 FEB) – & the rich legacy of Polish poster design.

MIDNIGHT EXCESS: THE STUD/THE BITCH at Rio Cinema (16 FEB).
MIDNIGHT EXCESS by Aleksander Walijewski.

Aleksander, your work follows in a rich tradition of highly original Polish poster art. What’s your background? Were you schooled in the tradition of the Polish School Of Poster Design?

It’s been almost three years since I’ve started designing posters. My first poster was a commissioned work which was very random for me because at that time I mostly created drawings, paintings and sculptures. I had so much fun working on it that it made me realise right away I want to pursue it.

In the beginning I was working on posters on my own and all my knowledge about poster design was based on works by Polish School of Posters artists and their followers. Naturally my posters were affected by it, although to be fair no one ever told me how my works should look like, all of it came out pretty naturally. Soon after I decided to focus on poster I created a series of horror film posters as a part of my licenciate degree diploma at the Institute of Fine Arts in Kielce and that’s when I got to learn more about poster design.

Currently I study graphic design at the University of Arts in Poznań where I attend the Poster Studio led by Grzegorz Marszałek – one of the masters of Polish posters – which is a great opportunity for me to develop further.

How do you think Polish film poster designs have evolved since the 1950s/1980s – possibly their most influential period?

Along with computers getting to be more popular in the 90s, poster design started to change fast. Unfortunately the focus on artistic posters was taken over by mostly thoughtless photographic posters. It doesn’t mean that illustrated posters dissapeared from public space but it definitely wasn’t as popular as before.

When it comes to the technical aspect, today the computer is a necessary tool for graphic designers, it helps with experiments and visual manipulations, it’s a great advantage. Back in the day posters were painted traditionally, usually in smaller formats. Polish designers didn’t have the access to most of the fonts and it resulted in writing them by hand most of the time, which gave an interesting look to the whole composition but sometimes it was hard to read the information on the posters. Today this would be rather unacceptable.

Polish designers are still creating very unique, and multilayered posters. You can see that Polish School of Posters tradition is still there but it doesn’t feel outdated by any means. This form of multilayered content was a well-known quality of Polish designers in the past, as they used to often hide political message in film posters, that were directed against the communist authorities. From the designers’ initiative, film posters used to do something more than just promote a movie back then.

At a recent talk at the British Film Institute – “Do Film Posters Inspire Watching Films?” by authors Nigel Arthur & Ewa Reeves (28 JAN 2019) – Reeves described Polish film posters as “fascinating visual riddles”. Do you feel the same way and, if so, how do you go about constructing the riddles in your posters?

Definitely. Thanks to those mental shortcuts, symbols, metaphors, designers can say a lot, very often using minimalistic form. When I design a poster, I try for it to be a quintessence of the movie but not in an obvious way as you can see sometimes these days, like: PULP FICTION is a syringe, WHIPLASH is a drumstick etc. It’s boring. Minimalism is not only simplification of the form but also of an original idea.

For me, the sketching part is the most exciting because this is when an idea is being born. Of course sometimes it can be a pain in the ass when I can’t come up with anything good. This is when I try to take a break from sketching and get back to it later on with a fresh perspective. Sometimes the idea just pops in my head out of nowhere but of course it’s a result of earlier research, sketching.

As you can see, most of my posters, especially the film ones including the poster for THE STUD/THE BITCH, are usually painted and visually expanded but lately I also try to simplify the form of my works. Although my way of thinking and constructing those “visual riddles” is rather the same whether I decide to create a more detailed, illustrated poster or a more minimalistic one.

… and do you agree those “riddles” inspire people to watch the films? More so than the photomontage posters we see a lot of in the UK?

These photomontage posters are for some reason a world phenomenon and as I said before you can see them in Poland too, so I know what you’re talking about. I never met a person who said anything flattering about this type of posters. Of course they fulfill their informative role but nothing more. They’re usually very similar; it’s almost like there’s a few templates used to promote every film genre.

When it comes to artistic poster where graphic designer/artist plays with form, colour or adds some more meaning to it, and it’s done right, it’s definitely more interesting and eye-catching. If a passerby is intrigued by it I think there’s a big chance he’ll consider going to the screening. A typical commercial poster usually doesn’t affect you like that.

Heads feature a lot in your designs, either reduced to their essential skulls or fractured and fragmented through various planes. Your design for MIDNIGHT EXCESS gives us what I have come to call – affectionately as a sci-fi fan! – “The Bitch Borg”. How did this design come about?

I like how you called it! (laughing). I’ve been always fascinated by portraying people, ever since I was a little kid I used to paint and draw portraits. I also used to sculpt busts in clay and now the time has come for me to use it in my posters. You can say a lot with portrait, especially on poster which asks to use metaphors, symbols etc.

In order to find an interesting visual effect I use to create rather surreal graphics and that helps posters to draw attention with its weirdness. People like to stare at strange things because they stimulate the imagination and encourage them to think about the subject matter. When it comes to the poster for MIDNIGHT EXCESS, the idea for it started to form in my head when I was watching the first of the films. I wanted to include this type of CCTV camera on it as it symbolises perversion of the main character and the sex tape recorded by her is very important to the plot of the movie. The double portrait shows both The Stud and The Bitch, in this case it was important to include both characters to emphasize Fontaine’s domination over Tony.

What stages did it go through before arriving at the final version?

After I’ve watched both movies I just started sketching and looking for the best way to visualize the idea I was talking about. After I had it done, I talked with Ranjit from SUPAKINO and choose the best version. It went really smoothly and it was a pleasure working on this poster.

In an increasingly online, handheld world, does the film poster risk losing its potency?

I understand why people can think that, it’s because these days the most popular source for finding interesting cultural events or film screenings is internet, social media. Printed poster – no matter how sentimental we might feel about it and it’s role – is not as irreplaceable as it used to be and that’s why it’s also present in the virtual world and this is where it’s doing really, really well. Intriguing, bold or hilarious film posters can find their way to thousands, millions of people in few days. Besides, the poster is still evolving, I mean you probably saw a lot of animated posters or posters that use VR technology in the last few years, right? Of course I’m not sure that this is necessarily the future of the poster but it’s pretty cool to watch those experiments.

Getting back to the printed film poster, I think it’s worth to mention that it’s existence is not only important during the promo rollout. There’s a big interest in alternative movie posters created for newer films as well as for ones created 10, 30 and even 60 years ago. These works show new, fresh perspective on well-know cinema classics and encourage people to watch them once again or sometimes for the first time. At least I know it works like that with me. Poster art is still alive and well and I don’t think this will change anytime soon with all the attention it gets.

Why is it important that promoters like Ranjit continue to commission new poster designs and designers?

It’s really important because the more people appreciate this form of artistic poster, the more popular it gets and not only designers benefit from that but most of all the culture. Thanks to people like Ranjit, the art of film poster can continue to find its way to viewers.

And that’s the meat of it…

  • MIDNIGHT EXCESS: THE STUD/THE BITCH screens at Rio Cinema on 16 FEB 2019, from 23:00 until very late. Book here: riocinema.org.uk

POSTER ART BY ALEKSANDER WALIJEWSKI

The first MIDNIGHT EXCESS poster for THE STUD/THE BITCH (16 FEB) was designed by Polish graphic artist Aleksander Walijewski. Rights to THE STUD/THE BITCH poster are retained by Ranjit S. Ruprai/SUPAKINO. All other original image rights on this page are retained by Aleksander Walijewski.

Web walijewski-art.com | Instagram @walijewskiart | Etsy WalijewskiART

MIDNIGHT EXCESS: THE STUD/THE BITCH by Aleksander Walijewski. All rights retained by Ranjit S. Ruprai.
MIDNIGHT EXCESS: THE STUD/THE BITCH by Aleksander Walijewski.

Valentine's 2019: THE STUD at Rio Cinema (16 FEB).
Valentine’s 2019: THE STUD/THE BITCH at Rio Cinema (16 FEB, 23:00+).

THE STUD (1978) / THE BITCH (1979)

Shot on a tiny budget in three weeks and rejected by most major studios, THE STUD ended up being the most successful film of 1978. Based on the steamy novel by Jackie Collins, the film revived her sister Joan’s career and went on to spawn an equally excessive sequel just a year later. Set in London’s disco scene, THE STUD and THE BITCH follow the hedonistic, erotic exploits of Fontaine Khaled, a woman of expensive taste and unbridled libido. With their hazy aesthetic, lavish set design and disco soundtrack, the sleek and sleazy classics are the perfect 70s treat.


MIDNIGHT EXCESS

Launched by SUPAKINO in 2019, MIDNIGHT EXCESS aims to bring back the thrill of late night movies and subversive double features. Expect a programme of gloriously over-the-top movies, from eye-popping exuberance to the utterly outrageous, and from the downright strange to the outright sexy. MIDNIGHT EXCESS also aims to give a space for indie film clubs and programmers to collaborate and show the type of repertory cinema that wouldn’t otherwise get a chance to be seen again on the big screen.

SUPAKINO

Ranjit S. Ruprai is an independent programmer and supporter of indie cinemas, film festivals and film clubs in London. Since 2017, he has been curating friendly film screenings around fun and unusual themes including Turbans Seen On Screen at The Institute Of Light and Bombay Mix double-bills at Rio Cinema. These are often accompanied by live music, short films, cast/crew and renowned guest speakers.

Web supakino.com | Instagram @supakino | Twitter @supakino_

ZODIAC FILM CLUB

Beginning with a shared love of horror, pulp, thrills and mystery, Sarah Kathryn Cleaver and Jordan Storm Louise set up Zodiac Film Club. You can expect carefully chosen screenings every month, a film for each sign. We select good looking films, complex female characters and our favourites in rarely screened classics, cult and contemporary cinema to share with you, and invite you to talk about it with us afterwards.

Facebook @ZodiacFilmClub | Instagram @zodiacfilmclub


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*THE SMALL PRINT: Some of these words are not our own. All opinions and artwork credited to the original authors and their collaborators. We try to get the details right: let us know if any links, dates, venues etc. are broken or just plain wrong. Updates will be made to the online edition only. Rights to THE STUD/THE BITCH poster are retained by Ranjit S. Ruprai/SUPAKINO. All other original image rights on this page are retained by Aleksander Walijewski.

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