The Quick Recommendation: The Act Of Seeing By Nicolas Winding Refn

The old pornographic movie posters now considered art

Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s unlikely that the men in overcoats shuffling towards the grimier movie theatres on New York’s 42nd Street and in Times Square stopped to admire the graphic design work that went into the posters for the likes of Victor Peter’s tale of a lonesome gal in New York, Love Me… Please! (1972) or Mario Bava’s “explosive look into the psychology of a woman in love”, Four Times That Night (1972). But that doesn’t mean that, looking back at them now, there isn’t a certain aesthetic chutzpah to the marketing devices of the late 20th century’s sexploitation movies.

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Which is probably what Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn, who made slick 2011 neon-and-gorefest Drive, was attracted to when he bought an extensive collection of US film posters. Refn has now chosen a sampling of them – specifically those which “aroused”, “shocked” or “frightened” him – for a book to be published imminently under the somewhat misleadingly grandiose title The Act of Seeing. (The task of captioning them is nobly undertaken by British horror film expert Alan Jones.)

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The book – which unsurprisingly focuses mostly on work from the late Fifties to the decade that decency forgot aka the Seventies – features such eye-popping titles as 1973 grindhouse stalwart The X-Rated Super Market (“see what these wives do with organic marital aids!”) and 1975 nunsploitation flick Confessions of a Female Monk (“her beauty was inflammatory!”). And really, perusing its pages, who couldn’t get lost for hours in the delicate pencil shading of the artwork for 1965’s Hot Blooded Woman or the clever decoupage for Orgy of Revenge (1970), which is probably exactly why those men in the mackintoshes scurried past so quickly.

The Act of Seeing by Nicolas Winding Refn and Alan Jones (Fab Press) is out on 14 September