Poster for Jean Vigo's L'Atalante (1934) illustrated by Michel Gondry (1990)

The Criterion Collection’s blog: L’Atalante poster, designed by Michel Gondry (1990 French rerelease). Posted on September 2, 2011

The poster was familiar to me, but I didn’t know it was illustrated and allegedly designed by French film director Michel Gondry. First known for his music videos, Michel Gondry also directed feature films such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), The Science of Sleep (2006), Be Kind Rewind (2008) and, more recently, The Green Hornet (2011).
I first learn this va Criterion’s tweeter feed. The poster was posted by Criterion to mark the release of The Complete Jean Vigo Blu-ray box set (Spine no. 578).
Back in May 2009, Adrian Curry wrote a richer blog post for MUBI’s Notebook about the poster:

The other day I was looking at the poster and I discovered something I had never noticed before, and which would have meant nothing back in 1990: there in the bottom left hand corner it said “Illustration: Michel Gondry.”

Detail from L'Atalante movie poster designed and illustrated by Michel Gondry
Detail from the bottom left corner of L'Atalante movie poster illustrated by Michel Gondry for the 1990 French re-release of Jean Vigo's film. Retrieved from MUBI's Notebook.

Gondry would have been 26 at the time and three years away from his breakthrough directing Bjork’s Human Behaviour video, though he had been making promos for his band Oui Oui since 1988. As surrealized in his semi-autobiographical reverie The Science of Sleep, Gondry had worked as a graphic designer for a small ad agency in the late ’80s, which may have led to the poster gig. But it should come as no surprise that L’atalante is in fact Gondry’s favorite film of all-time: its brilliant combination of whimsy, romance and invention is perfectly Gondrian avant la lettre. New Yorker used the poster for its 2003 DVD release, but there is no mention of the illustrator in the credits and I’m sure they had no idea.

The last time I watched L’Atalante was in 1995. A 35 mm copy was being shown in a very small cine-club where I used to go. I remembered being very fond of the character played by Michel Simon.


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