News, music, movies & restaurants from the editors of the Silicon Valley's #1 weekly newspaper.
Serving San Jose, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Fremont & nearby cities.

April 5-11, 2006

home | metro silicon valley index | the arts | books | review

Book Box

'The Art of the Italian Film Poster'

The Art of the Italian Film Poster
REVIEW (By Mel Bagshaw; Black Dog Publishing Ltd.; 214 pages; $39.95 paper)
—Richard von Busack

In this indispensable collection, Mel Bagshaw charts nearly a century of a powerful graphic tradition, from the advertisements for the silent film classic Cabiria to the end-of-the-world Pasolini shocker Salo. Vibrant and sometimes vulgar, the selection here reflects a nation in turmoil. Even this most escapist art had rage in it. The poster for Ercule Contro Rome (1964) is a dorsal view of the demigod, his shoulder muscles corded as he prepares to hurl an Oldsmobile-size rock at some centurians: the image could have been appropriated by any union's strike committee. Which isn't to say that this florid tradition is all political—this was a genre that gave the world Zorro vs. Maciste. Bagshaw has also collected the more elegant side of Italian design, including the museum-worthy poster for La Dolce Vita, with Marcello Mastroianni diagonally opposed to a dancing Anita Ekberg. A mating couple, dyed green as pippins except for their poison-red lips, perfectly sums up Antonioni's La Notte in one image. Clint Eastwood is even more intimidating on the poster for For a Few Dollars More than he was in the movie. "Screaming With Style," the horror/giallo section, is worth the price of the book alone. Here, silent movie expressionism matches carnival colors. Bagshaw shows the range of styles in the ads for the same movie: a graphic poster of the punishment of Barbara Steele in Mario Bava's Black Sunday is compared with a more uptown PG-rated image of a red handprint over Steele's shocked white face. This is an essential reference work, with a surprise on every page, and the reproduction quality is about the best I've ever seen.

Send a letter to the editor about this story.


Museums and gallery notes.

Reviews of new book releases.

Reviews and previews of new plays, operas and symphony performances.

Reviews and previews of new dance performances and events.