[Editor's Note: Poster Lab is your weekly dose of movie poster dissection, wherein the House examines the pluses, minuses, and in-betweens of the poster design(s) for a buzzworthy film.]
The one-sheet for Hitchcock may turn out to be the 2012 poster that makes the strongest statement. More than just announcing a film's release, this simplistic and darkly ironic ad marks a bold move for Fox Searchlight Pictures, and augments their reputation as a studio wont to crash the Oscar season with a surprise contender. Still in production as recently as this past spring, the movie, based on Stephen Rebello's book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, wasn't expected to be prepped as awards bait. It's suddenly set to drop on November 23, and the poster serves as its coming-out party, brandishing the first peek of Anthony Hopkins as the portly suspense master.
As the movie, like the book, charts the lead-up to the release of Hitchcock's most famous title, the poster loosely adopts the Psycho title font, which is aptly cocked to further imply a tinge of black comedy. It's a tone directly reflective of the late auteur's trademark film intros, which presented a harmless-looking host who gingerly welcomed viewers to scream their guts out. "Good evening," reads the tagline on the dinner-party design, and the words have an irony all their own, as they've been uttered not only by Hitchcock, but by Hopkins in a memorable scene from Hannibal. It may not be fate, but it's serendipitously spooky.
Hopkins certainly looks the part, thanks to healthy dose of chin-expanding prosthetics that are bound to either look like putty or run away with the Makeup Oscar (or, quite possibly, both). This poster surely doubles as the kick-off of a Best Actor awards campaign, sending pundits shuffling off to update their predix charts. It may be good news for Hopkins, but it's sour news for Toby Jones, whose thunder will be stolen yet again by a higher-profile take on one of the real-life characters he's portraying. It was 2005 when the Oscar-bound Capote outshone Jones's Infamous, with Philip Seymour Hoffman's In Cold Blood scribe hogging accolades as the definitive embodiment. History looks to repeat itself, as Jones's role as Hitchcock in HBO's upcoming The Girl will doubtlessly play second fiddle to that of the venerated Hopkins, despite the difference in platform. Furthermore, The Girl can only give Hitchcock a boost, as the telefilm opens roughly one month before the big-screen movie, providing the perfect chance for viewers to get excited and in the mood for the latter.
The greatest detail of the Hitchcock poster is beautifully subtle, and it ties together the film's apparent mix of the classy, the funny, and the macabre. It is, appropriately, a tie—or, at least, a knife standing in for one. This unsuspecting nuance is a tiny gem of design, plunging along with the curve of the jacket to rest in Hopkins's hands, and flecked with just the tiniest trace of blood. If the movie can boast this same subtly clever, expert blend of elements, it will offer a good evening indeed.