Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Josep Renau Berenguer: A Giant Among Mexican Movie Poster Artists

A good starting point for understanding the beauty of Spanish and Mexican Movie posters would be with the art of Josep Renau Berenguer.  Many agree that Berenguer is one of the finest and most well-known poster artists of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema.

The artist's father was a professor of drawing in Valencia, Spain, which suggests that art was already in Berenguer's blood.  His brother Juanino also became a movie poster artist, so it was like the family business.

Giant, huge, or larger-than-life are all appropriate descriptors for Berenguer, who had some big ideas.  During his career in Spain, Berenguer was a member of the Communist Party before the Spanish civil war, was the publisher of an arts journal, founder of the Union of Writers and Artists, a professor at the same university as his father, and the arts Director General who hired Picasso to paint the master work Guernica.

Trained as an artist, lithographer, and photographer, Berenguer first gained widespread recognition with series of Art Deco watercolors shown at a Madrid exhibition in 1928.  He was not concerned about working commercially in order to fund his political and other artistic passions, and thus produced many commissions for advertising and posters for Spanish Cinema.  Much of his work was also on a literally large scale, with agit-prop posters Berenguer drew meant for a wide audience, and huge murals he made in both Germany and Mexico covering buildings several stories high.

Interned in France after leaving Spain, the artist, along with many other refugees from the fascist Franco regime, went to Mexico to carry on his life and work.  During this period, Berenguer produced many wonderful and collectible posters for Mexican cinema until he left for Berlin in 1958.  Berenguer remained in the GDR for the rest of his life, with occasional visits to Spain after the end of Franco's regime.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

El Cine de Oro: The Golden Age of Mexican Cinema

Many believe the heyday of Mexican cinema was between 1935 and 1959.  Posters and other movie promotional art from this "Golden Age" are considered very valuable.  Little noticed and not widely collected, the movie art from this time is so desirable because it is truly rare, and because it packs a powerful nostalgic wallop.

Early Mexican movie posters, lobby cards, hand bills, and the like are primarily scarce because they were produced in very limited runs.  The Argasanchez film archive estimates the Mexican film industry may have had as little as one percent of the poster production of its early Hollywood counterparts circulating to advertise coming attractions.  Besides starting out with fewer of them, Mexican movie posters and other promotional graphics were also printed on flimsy paper stock that was not meant to last.  Finally, with regard to the posters, a devastating fire at the Argasanchez archive in 1982 limited access to these art forms even more.

The love that Mexican and Spanish language film-goers had for Cine de Oro's genres and stars further enhance the coveted nature of the posters and lobby cards.  Early audiences in Central America, South America, and Spain could not get enough of rural genre films (like the classic Allá en el rancho grande "Out on the Big Ranch" directed by Fernando de Fuentes), or musicals (such as Fuentes' Jalisco canta en Sevilla "Jalisco Sings in Seville" starring ranchera singer Jorge Negrete and co-produced with a Spansh film company). Urban comedies with stars like Cantinflas and Tin Tan were also audience favorites.

Golden Age Mexican films are not all the pedestrian fare that recent viewers might imagine.  Cutting edge film auteur Luis Bunuel was influenced by the realism of the urban mexican film genre, and did many films in Mexico later in his career.  Early Mexican film also had collaborations with famous writers. La Perla (The Pearl), for example, was the work of Pulitzer prize-winning author John Steinbeck, and was produced by Mexico's own flamboyant D.W. Griffith character, Emilio Fernández, known as "El Indio."

Labor disputes and the eventual concetration of film production into a few hands changed the nature of the early Mexican cinema industry that was once supported by plentiful state subsidies.  Many say that el Cine de Oro ended when another beloved ranchera singer and leading man, Pedro Infante (known as El Ídolo del Pueblo or The Idol of the People), died in a private plane crash in April 1957.

Info from Argasanchez Archive and Wiki 
Pedro Infante, likely the most famous actor and singer of the Golden Age of Mexican Movies, shows his stuff:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Intro to Spanish Poster Art

At Movie Fan Collectibles, we have dedicated ourselves and our website to providing an interesting and very collectible range of vintage and contemporary movie memorabilia.  When we say collectible, we mean that our movie posters, film unit stills, lobby cards, and other unique movie ephemera originally produced by the U. S. and foreign film industries, are still very affordable and poised to increase in value rapidly.

In the foreign film memorabilia category, we are very excited about vintage promotional art from Mexican and Spanish language movies. Movie Fan Collectibles online carries a fine selection of mid-twentieth century Spanish language mini-posters and lobby cards from what was considered to be the golden era of Mexican cinema.

When we first laid our eyes on Spanish movie art and memorabilia, we knew it was unique and different from Hollywood movie memorabilia.  As it turns out, our hunch was correct.  Most of these posters and lobby cards were produced by first-rate graphic artists who emigrated from Spain to Mexico during the political upheavals of the 1930's. 

Many of the Mexican poster artists got their start in Spain producing political posters and other graphic propaganda.  A number of these artists and designers also were heavily influenced by the European avant-garde of the 30's, which included the of Cubism of fine artists like Picasso and Braque.

One of the most interesting characteristics of Mexican and Spanish language golden age movie posters and memorabilia was that the artists needed to show with little ambiguity what the movie was about.  It was necessary because many of the movie-goers in Mexico and the South American movie markets were illiterate and would be unable to read any promotional or descriptive text on the posters.

All of these uncommon artistic and cultural elements have combined to make Mexican and Spanish language movie art visually stunning and highly desirable.

(Thanks to Rogilio Argasanchez and his archive for the art background)