Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Snow Screen: Drew: The Man Behind the Poster

Several years and a couple of San Diego Comic-Con's in the making, Drew:  The Man Behind the Poster, received a limited theatrical release before hitting DVD and Netflix this fall.  The story of Drew Struzan, one of if not the most known and beloved movie artists of all time (seriously, can you name another poster artist?); Drew is a study of the man's work peppered with bits about his life and now legacy featuring a plethora of famous interviewees and fans including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Thomas Jane, Frank Darabont, Leonard Maltin, Michael J. Fox and Guillermo Del Toro.  The last two being particularly funny in their comments and recollections of describing their relationship with the artist.

The documentary opens with a brief and melancholy look at Struzan's loveless childhood that led him to moving out after high school.  A Los Angeles native, Struzan attended Art Center in Pasadena where he honed his craft for six years.  Newly married with a child, Struzan went to work designing album covers which culminated in his much revered piece for Alice Cooper's Welcome to My Nightmare in 1975.  An advertising agency came calling and convinced Struzan to switch to movie poster art which paid much more handsomely.  The die cast, history was now in the making.

Drew's narrative focuses on a few major eras of his work, the first being Star Wars, which came in as a partnership offer from a friend who was good at robots but not humans.  George Lucas loved the combined work and as time has shown us, commissioned Struzan for dozens more pieces for the original 1977 trilogy, 1997 Special Edition releases and 1999's second trilogy.  His collaborations with Steven Spielberg, primarily Indiana Jones, is the next era highlighted with many an observation by the man himself, Harrison Ford.  Struzan's work with Jim Henson on The Muppet movies comes after which was a surprise as you forget how many wonderful posters he's created over the years.

As a documentary, Drew delivers a wonderful 90 minute look at the artist whose work defined a generation at the movies.  His textured, vibrant and better than photo-real style conveyed story, action, excitement and wonder in a single image in less than a second's glance.  The 80's were arguably his go-go years with iconic posters for Back to the Future, First Blood, Coming to America, Blade Runner, The Goonies, Police Academy, Big Trouble In Little China and Masters of the Universe among dozens more forever embedded themselves into the mind of young viewers like myself.  The last title is subject to some slight ire as an example of the poster being better than the movie.  It's an absolutely stunning poster but I disagree it's a bad movie because I whole-heartedly love Masters for all it's "Conan the Barbarian meets Star Wars done on the cheap" sensibility.

As a narrative feature, Drew might not be as interesting to unaware or casual fans as conflict isn't a heavily featured topic and there are no high stakes to speak of.  Struzan's hardships as a child and his later professional strife with shady business partners are covered by not dwelled upon showing that the soft spoken, kind hearted artist has not become bitter.  In the end, Drew is a lovingly insightful look into the career and influence of an artist who unknowingly put a stamp on cinematic history without even trying.

For more information on the documentary and how to see it, check out the official site.

No comments:

Post a Comment