Is there a contemporary filmmaker with a more vivid graphic sensibility than Pedro Almodóvar? His always distinctive films, with their bold colors, deliberate blocking and impeccable set design, often look like cartoons or magazine spreads come to life. Following suit, the posters for his films have always been a testament to his aesthetic, whether in his scrappy underground days or his far more polished later years. With his 20th feature film, Julieta, opening December 21, and a Museum of Modern Art retrospective beginning in New York next Tuesday, I thought it was high time I featured the best artwork of Almodóvar’s 40 year career.
Any cinephile in their twenties might be forgiven for thinking that Almodóvar is the most establishment of arthouse directors: perennially fêted by Cannes and the New York Film Festival, winner of two Oscars, and, since the late 1990s, consistently distributed by Sony Pictures Classics. But there was a time when Almodóvar was among the most transgressive of European filmmakers, making provocative silent Super 8 shorts to be shown at bars and parties in the era of La Movida Madrileña, Spain’s hedonistic, late-70s, post-Franco cultural renaissance. Despite his visual élan, and his having dabbled in Spain’s cartoon underground scene of the early 1970s, Almodóvar was a writer and a filmmaker foremost, but he has always surrounded himself with visual artists and his posters have been the result of a number of notable collaborations.
The poster for his first official feature Pepi, Luci, Bom (1980) is an explicitly cartoonish work by underground comic artist Ceesepe (a.k.a. Carlos Sánchez Pérez) (b. 1958) who also created the poster for 1987’s Law of Desire. His next three features were all promoted with suitably grungy designs by fellow filmmaker and artist Ivan Zulueta (1943-2009) who met Almodóvar working on one of his first short films. And one of his best posters—a Cocteau-esque illustration for Matador (1986) was by artist and pop star Carlos Berlanga (1959-2002). But by far the most important design collaboration of Almodóvar’s career has been with the Argentine designer Juan Gatti (b. 1950) who has been responsible not only for some of Almodóvar’s most distinctive posters, but also for his gorgeous title sequences, like this one for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown.
These collaborations and a number of the most striking international designs for his films are presented below in chronological order.
Posters courtesy of Heritage Auctions and CineMaterial. The Museum of Modern Art retrospective of the films of Pedro Almodóvar runs from November 29 through December 17.