The first programme coordinated to unify printed and animated graphic art was used for Otto Preminger’s 1955 film The Man with the Golden Arm. The title sequence was designed by Saul Bass and featured an arm that traced the plot of the film: the drug addiction of its main character. The credits for the film denoted a significant break away from what had gone before; the accompanying a jazz staccato, the on-screen appearance of graphic designs – some faded out, others remaining on screen – put into place alternative and diverse expressive resources that were representative of both cinema and graphic art. Since that point both forms of communication have developed a long and brilliant road through which different specialists have appeared “on screen” to create a form of expression where each party involved has invaded the other’s territory. Moreover, the catalogue of small/large master pieces in credit titles and posters have grown over the years to incorporate the work of masters such as Bass, De Patie-Freleng, Binder, Brownjohn and Cruz Novillo in Spain.
Film producers and the film industry have learned how to incorporate the designer as a key part of the cinematic process, as a specialist able to turn film content into little pieces of art that prolong and persuade, that give clues or intimate certain atmospheres, or that prepare and interest the viewer in what they are going to contemplate.
Cruz Novillo talks about how the film circuit in Spain was organised around three agents: the producer, the distributor and the exhibitor and how his style was adapted more to the ideas of the producer or screenwriter, enabling him to focus on the cultural part of the film while the rest of his colleagues worked within a consideration for the commercial needs of film theatres.
His personal relationship with figures such as Alfredo Matas, Elías Querejeta, Luis Megino and Emiliano Piedra enabled him to design posters that had not been intended for distribution, but instead for film presentations in the most important European film festivals: San Sebastián, Cannes or Berlin, with little importance placed on the fact they were aimed at minorities.
Pepe Cruz Novillo also repeatedly tells how he had to interrupt his summer holidays to begin work on posters for some of the biggest film producers in Spain that where going to present their work at the upcoming San Sebastián Film Festival.
As the designer himself asserts, he used highly distinctive iconography, without being concerned with creating a “Cruz Novillo style”, revelling in an exploration of different graphic languages and playing a great deal with positive-negative, taking advantage of his background as a draughtsman in advertising and studying the “paging” and the use of different kinds of typography. Resources that were not commonplace in the film posters of the time (see previous post).
His work set out from the synopsis and the script and, on certain occasions, as with his collaborations with Elías Querejeta, which he combined with a strong friendship, from the montage the film producer envisaged in the Moviola he had in his office.
The posters shown in this post were designed up until 1975. Cruz Novillo’s output in this graphic genre is much more extensive and would constitute a highly interesting exhibition that could trace the registers of the designer, whilst also representing a journey through the best of Spanish cinema in the second half of the 20th century.