Director, screenwriter, producer Nicolas Winding Refn is poised to add another title to his resume this fall: author. The Danish filmmaker is soon to publish a book that highlights over 300 of his favorite movie posters. Titled “Nicolas Winding Refn: The Act of Seeing,” and featuring copy by film critic and horror reporter Alan Jones, the massive collection reprints the posters, which Refn painstakingly placed in a very particular order. The project has been in the works for over three years — the amount of time it took Refn to peruse his poster collection, decide what made the cut, and paginate the selected entries. He deems it “a bit like editing a movie — what experience would you want to have when you turned the pages?”
In an interview with EW, Refn explains that “The Act of Seeing” indirectly came about roughly five years ago through his burgeoning interest in Andy Milligan, a relatively unknown New York filmmaker who wrote and directed over 30 movies between 1965 and 1988. His interest in Milligan led him to biographer Jimmy McDonaugh, who had written a book about the artist. The two began communicating, and as Refn explains…
One day [McDonaugh] said, “Listen, I have about a thousand posters, I need some money,” and I was like, “Yeah, sure, of course.” So, I purchased his whole collection, without really knowing what I was going to get. A few months later about a thousand posters arrived in boxes. I was like, “What the hell am I going to do with all this?” Also, I didn’t know 90 percent of the movies. I started going through it and that’s when I had this idea: “Hey, why don’t I do the most expensive poster book about posters for movies nobody’s ever seen?”
(Sounds reasonable enough. What else would one do with all those posters?) Yet, the book — and Refn’s interest in making it — isn’t based just in his happenstance collection of posters. As he describes it…
When I was a lot younger, I had a very strong interest in extreme and obscure cinema and that naturally was very much what exploitation films, at that time, were about. I became interested in that genre when it was still the VHS era, so there were a lot of urban myths about films apparently being in circulation and films that you could unearth in strange places. There was still an interest in collecting because something could disappear and you could never see it again.
It naturally follows, then, that there could be both an interest and a market for a book about collectible movie posters, certainly one curated by this aesthetically unique filmmaker. Refn summarizes the connection by saying, “I’m sure a lot of people will appreciate the more extreme and also the more obscure ones. Luckily, this book, 99 percent of it is things you can’t get any more.”
“Nicolas Winding Refn: The Act of Seeing” will be first released at Fantastic Fest in Austin, TX, which runs September 24 through October 1 this year. As tie-ins to the book launch, Refn and the festival are screening three films represented in the book, and Austin’s Mondo Gallery will have 15 of the original posters reprinted in the collection on display September 25-27. The book goes on sale to the public October 5. You can preorder the high-quality collection at Amazon for $85 (down from $100, currently), if you like, or just check out the cover and some of the featured posters below.
Head over to EW for the full interview with Refn, which also includes an interesting anecdote about how one of the movies included in his book—“Farewell Uncle Tom” (1971) by Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco Prosperi — inspired a song choice on the “Drive” soundtrack.