LIFF28 - Drew: The Man Behind The Poster - Cinema Review

'When it comes to the posters of Drew Struzan, the artwork speaks for itself, and that's exactly what Sharkey allows to happen for a considerable portion of his film'.

Go into Drew: The Man Behind The Poster expecting a documentary that reinvents the genre and you’re likely to come away disappointed. It’s almost certainly the only way you could be disappointed by the film however, being as it is a charming and heartfelt celebration of the work of film poster artist Drew Struzan.

His may not be a name that everyone knows, but there can’t be many people who grew up watching films in the closing decades of the 20th Century who aren’t familiar with Struzan’s work, even if they don’t know it. His most famous posters are almost certainly those for the Star Wars and Indiana Jones franchises, which the film spends some time considering. But we are also given a comprehensive tour through Struzan’s work for a wide variety of films (including a few peeks at some that were never used) as well as the album artwork he produced early on in his career and personal pieces he has painted most recently. Director Erik Sharkey sticks with a straightforward documentary style largely consisting of talking heads and new and archive footage edited together simply because he knows that's all he needs to do. When it comes to the posters of Drew Struzan, the artwork speaks for itself, and that's exactly what Sharkey allows to happen for a considerable portion of his film.

The affection for Struzan within the film industry comes across tremendously throughout Drew, with heartfelt praise and admiration heard from an impressive roll call of major Hollywood names including directors Steven Spielberg, Frank Darabont and Guillermo Del Toro and actors Michael J. Fox, Harrison Ford and, er... Steve Guttenberg. Whilst the love for Struzan is allowed once or twice to become a little too prolonged, Drew backs up the incredible esteem the artist is held within in the world of cinema remarkably well. Sharkey's film is built upon the belief that Struzan is to film posters what Ray Harryhausen is to stop-motion animation and John Williams is to orchestral soundtracks, and the director consistently succeeds in making us believe the same.

Struzan himself comes across as unassuming, humble and very likeable in an entirely authentic way. The footage taken at Comic Con 2013 of Struzan receiving an award for his years of service to the film industry demonstrates this best - it's clear that Struzan has not allowed the big names he has worked with throughout his career to go to his head. Even when he speaks about his troubled relationship with his parents, Struzan never feels as though he's expecting sympathy, simply relating the facts of his life in a genuine, candid fashion.

There are a few structural issues that come up within Drew: a sequence in which Struzan meets Harrison Ford for the first time feels dropped in haphazardly by Sharkey; another, focused upon his soured relationship with a former colleague who presumably couldn't be named for legal reasons, feels drawn out and never really recovers from the fact that the person's name has to be skirted around. But these are minor issues in what is an overwhelmingly enjoyable, intimate and lovingly crafted documentary celebrating a truly worthy subject. Drew ultimately wants you sit back and let Struzan's incredible artwork cascade over you, and that's exactly what you should do.

Drew: The Man Behind The Poster plays LIFF28 again on Wednesday 19th November at 18.00 in the Albert Room at Leeds Town Hall.

The 28th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 5th-20th November 2014 at cinemas around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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