The Robing of The Birds


Yet another of those curious Eastern European film posters which, to our Hollywood-colonised eyes, seem to violate all the conventions of cinema marketing. This example is a painting by Josef Vyletal for a 1970 Czech release of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Surrealist art enthusiasts will immediately identify the floating figures as being cut loose from Max Ernst’s The Robing of the Bride (1940). Compared to some Czech and Polish posters, the associations here aren’t so surprising; Ernst identified his alter-ego as a bird-headed individual named Loplop. Birds and bird-headed humans recur throughout his work. Hitchcock, meanwhile, famously commissioned Salvador Dalí to design the dream sequences in Spellbound (1945). One of Ernst’s few appearances as an actor is in Hans Richter’s Dreams That Money Can Buy (1947) a very Surrealist film which also features scenes informed by Ernst’s work. It’s a shame more directors didn’t take the opportunity to employ these talents while they were still alive.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Ballard and the painters
Franciszek Starowieyski, 1930–2009
Czech film posters
Hitchcock on film
Judex, from Feuillade to Franju
Impressions de la Haute Mongolie revisited
Dalí and Film

4 thoughts on “The Robing of The Birds”

  1. Hi Davecat. I love those poster designs, especially the ones by the late Franciszek Starowieyski. Many are a lot more striking and inventive than the bland things produced by studio marketing departments.

  2. I’d forgotten you’d had an entry regarding mr. Starowieyski. When I saw the poster design, and obviously the writing, I knew it was Eastern European, and after this was confirmed well, Starowieyski was the very next thing to pop into my mind.

    Those countries have always stood apart, and I honestly hope this remains the case. As you pointed out with Parajanov, though the Caucasus are in Asia their cultures spring from the same sources as those in Eastern Europe, the filmmakers over there seem far more concerned with experimentalism and pushing bounderies than any kind of excessive monetary gain as it has unfortunately become so in many of our Western countries.

    Wojciech Has, of course who you know of well enough having written an entry on ‘Hourglass Sanatorium’ , springs instantly to mind as well.

  3. Filmmakers in the Iron Curtain countries had an advantage of sorts for several decades since their output was state-financed and there needed to be new work being produced all the time. The drawback, of course, was censorship and a restriction on subject matter, something which eventually put a halt to Parajanov’s career and sent other artists into exile.

    That aside, there does often seem to be a different type of imagination at work the farther east you go. How else to explain the singularity of so many of the writers and directors (animation creators especially)? This may have something to do with different folk traditions since so many contemporary story themes have evolved from very ancient forms. I wonder sometimes how much of our perception is coloured by the exotic nature of the unfamiliar.

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