As Kaneto Shindo's amazing KURONEKO opens this Friday at Film Forum in New York City, I wanted to share a few rough concepts from my process of designing the theatrical poster for Janus Films.

KURONEKO is a beautiful film, an erotic ghost story, full of amazing, haunting black and white images. The first thing I did was to try out some different title treatments against various backgrounds and patterns from the film. I saw a lot of potential in designing the title treatment around the film's visual motifs; straight, criss-crossed white lines to match Shindo's tall trees and bamboo, graceful white swoops and swaths to represent the mother ghost-cat somersaulting through the night air. I was also stuck on the idea of using a simple, elegant roman typeface that would really present the film as a classic ghost story.

I then placed some of these title treatments in a few very rough designs to consider. Having done the HOUSE poster for Janus just recently-- another movie about a ghost cat-- we wanted to avoid any and all comparisons and make sure we kept the cat imagery to a subtle minimum. My first idea ended up more-or-less going all the way:

I really loved the characters in this film -- a murdered mother and stepdaughter who hunt samurai as ghost cats, and the mother's son who is haunted by their spirits-- and I tried to figure out a way to get all three characters (AND the cat) on the poster, with not much success. The closest I got was this image, one I really loved of the mother and son walking through the woods and the fog (both major visual motifs of the film), with the image of the stepdaughter superimposed:

I thought these cat images were graphically interesting but ultimately not representative enough of the story (and also, the second one below was a little too close to the Broadway CATS poster):

I liked this concept where we see through the forest gate into the spiritual realm of the kuroneko...

And this one of the mother, which almost made it to the next round:

This one I had to try for fun... Makes for a cool teaser poster at least for the genre fans:

Our favorite direction among all of these was to use the image of the mother and son walking through the woods. It's not only one of my favorite images from the film, but it comes at a huge moment in the story. It's a mysterious image that is very evocative, but its meaning won't hit you until you arrive at this moment in the film. I tried laying in the cat eyes almost subliminally through the trees, and started setting in different title treatments. We ultimately decided to go with the broad paint-stroke lettering-- the elegant roman typeface wasn't quite spooky or Japanese enough (and I could use that in the credits/billing). So I got out the paints and started working on getting the letters just right:

I originally saw the title in the center of the poster, but it gave the overall design a chunky, kinda awkward look.

We put the title at the bottom of the poster and I gave it a little twist to match the landscape... then, with a little fine-tuning and a lot of computer magic to help the small figures and details read more clearly, we arrived at the final poster design below.

Hopefully our poster captures the ghostly tone and does justice to the film's beautiful imagery. KURONEKO is a stunning film, and I hope people check it out as Janus tours the new print around the country -- visit Janus Films for play dates and spread the word about this rediscovered Japanese classic.


Unknown said...

A great film and a great poster. Love the painted typeface especially. Well done!

Gould said...

Beautiful posters.

If only Criterion was selling outside the US. Think global Criterion!!

Jason Whiton said...

Great to see that process. Cool ideas and drafts along the way! Can't wait to catch the film. -Jason (Spy Vibe)

idrejected said...

Interesting process and beautiful result! Hope they decide to sell the poster on the Criterion store as they did for the House one.

Chris M said...

Fucken Awesome !! Thanks so much for sharing this stuff.

Gould said...

Hey where's my post???

J. Ott said...

Well done, Sam!

Daniel Zalkus said...

Great poster. I like the hand lettering.