Studio Visits

How Sam Smith Finds Inspiration in the History of Poster Art

Criterion Designs — May 9, 2019

You’d be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about movie posters, not to mention gifted at making them, than Nashville-based artist and musician Sam Smith. A lifelong cinephile and devotee of design history—today he even cohosts a podcast on the subject, The Poster Boys—Smith (a.k.a. Sam’s Myth) has brought his deep knowledge of poster art from places as far-flung as Cuba, Japan, and Eastern Europe to bear on his own boldly graphic, vividly colorful work. (And as if that weren’t enough, he also happens to be Ben Folds’s drummer.)

It was a print that Smith made about a decade ago for a one-off midnight screening at Nashville’s Belcourt Theatre (which happens to be the subject of our latest installment of Art-House America on the Criterion Channel) that first brought him onto our radar: his infernal, delightfully demented artwork for Nobuhiko Obayashi’s 1977 freak-out House eventually became the official one-sheet for Janus Films’ full theatrical rollout and the cover of Criterion’s edition, as well as a bunch of T-shirts. As Smith explains in the latest episode of our Studio Visits series, it proved to be the beginning of a fruitful collaboration. He has since brought his versatile, arresting style to a number of Criterion titles, including covers for Solaris, Modern Times, and, most recently, Carlos Reygadas’s feature debut, Japón.

Check out the video above for a fascinating rummage around Smith’s light-filled home studio, and to learn more about how he arrived at his beautifully psychedelic concept for Reygadas’s elusive, existential film.

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