Coverage and Photos By Mark Saldana:
Fantastic Fest is more than just a film festival which screens movies. It is a festival which celebrates film in multiple ways. For example, acclaimed director Nicolas Winding Refn (Bronson, Drive, Only God Forgives) came to the fest this year to promote a book which features his extensive collection of vintage exploitation posters. Nicolas Winding Refn: The Act of Seeing is a gorgeous hardcover book which contains a prolific collection of over three hundred posters with words and descriptions by Alan Jones. When I received an invitation to attend a Mondo Gallery exhibit featuring some of these actual posters with Refn and Jones present to sign copies of the new book, I could not turn down this golden ticket.
For several years now, I have been a huge admirer of grindhouse and exploitation films and the amazing posters that promoted them. During the exhibit opening, I was a kid in a candy store beholding the trashy beauty of the artwork and highly comical taglines used to attract people to these supposedly lurid or disturbing films. I perused through the book and definitely had trouble tearing myself away from it. At the time, the book just wasn’t in my budget for purchases, but I would definitely love to own it eventually.
Refn, author Alan Jones, and local artist Jay Shaw, who created a special poster inspired by the book, signed copies of the book and poster for gleeful attendees. While at the opening, I not only studied and enjoyed the posters, but also relished in the reactions from the other people in attendance. I saw and noticed a mixture of quiet awe and the sound of laughter and chuckles as other people enjoyed what these posters have to offer.
After the exhibit presentation, I was also offered the opportunity to participate in a round-table interview with Refn who shared his insights on the posters and their films. As it turns out, Refn is a dedicated collector. He slyly revealed, “I haven’t seen most of the films, but I had this poster collection that I purchased from a friend of mine; so I had to make the most expensive book ever made of movies no one has ever heard of.” The art of creating posters such as these is pretty rare now. In comparing the artwork in this collection to modern movie posters, Refn added, ” Nothing is more boring than these photo-shopped things. Who wants that hanging on your wall? A lot of us use art to express who we are. The more generic it becomes, the less it speaks to us.”
Refn was asked about his collaboration with author Alan Jones and the process of putting together the book. “I would torture Alan Jones who did all the research. There were about a thousand posters and it took a long process to figure out what I wanted in the book. There were a lot of posters with no information. There were a lot where he did ‘true detective’ work. I don’t know how he did most of it.”
Three films from the collection were screened at Fantastic Fest (Farewell Uncle Tom, My Body Hungers, X-Rated Supermarket). I asked Refn why these particular films were selected. “Tim League had about ten or fifteen (films) from the book–some of them were unplayable, some of them are available on iTunes which is not as interesting. There was X-Rated Supermarket which everyone was really curious about what it was, My Body Hungers which is a film by Joe Sarno who actually is a quite good filmmaker, and Farewell Uncle Tom which is in a way the ultimate artsploitation. We screened X-Rated Supermarket which was probably an ‘event’ of the festival. It was outrageously fun!”
The exhibit and screenings were a perfect addition to Fantastic Fest and I certainly hope not too many people missed out on the opportunity to experience them. For those who did miss out and are interested in the book, it is now available for sale in some stores and is available for sale online on Amazon and at www.fabpress.com.