Autumn 2023

The film poster as freeze-frame

Moving Pictures Painted: 200 Posters from the Golden Age of Egyptian Cinema

CentreCentre, £30

Moving Pictures Painted: 200 Posters from the Golden Age of Egyptian Cinema (CentreCentre, £30) lifts the lid on a treasure chest of posters from the 1930s to the 90s. The vivid, illustrative artwork, always integrated with Arabic lettering, reflects Egypt’s film industry, which in the 1950s was the third largest in the world.

Throughout a time of great political and social turmoil, Egyptian cinema churned out action films, dramas, musicals and comedies like Al-Hamawat Al-Fatinat [The Charming Mothers-in-Law], top left, El mamalik [The Mamluks], starring Omar Sharif and Awdat al-ibn al-dal [The Return of the Prodigal Son], below. Home-grown stars included Fairouz (Egypt’s Shirley Temple), Sharif and Nadia Al-Gindi.

Though a small number of posters shown here were made for European or American movies (La Dolce Vita, Alienator), most of the book features posters for Egyptian movies, promoted in unashamedly sensationalist images that Christiane Gruber, in her essay for the book, terms ‘painterly freeze-frames’, like the poster for Ana el adala [I Am Justice], top. Further texts by Haytham Nawar and Joseph Fahim add some context and detail to understanding both the posters and the culture that spawned them.

However, the auteur behind Moving Pictures Painted is CentreCentre’s founder and art director Patrick Fry, who compiles 200 posters in this large-format book with the care and exacting print standards that made his earlier titles such as Brick Index and Reverses (see Eye 101) so enjoyable.

A monochrome opening section, on uncoated yellow paper, features the fascinating essays alongside production stills, lobby cards and evocative photos of cinemas in Cairo and movie posters in situ.

John L. Walters, editor of Eye, London

First published in Eye no. 105 vol. 27, 2023

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.