Image: Kiss Kiss Kill Kill Archive
The mention of spy films alone is enough to make people instantly think of James Bond. Beyond the suited and booted gadget-wielding Bond, though, lies a canon of European spy cinema that’s largely unknown. Blenheim Walk Gallery at the Leeds College Art currently plays host to an exhibition devoted to these forgotten movies, showing a wonderful collection of graphic art posters representing an era spanning from 50s to the 70s. I see the absence of Bond as a good thing; he is well represented enough as it is.
In 1968, Italy made 73 Spy films, putting into context just how popular a craze these types of films really were. With such a quantity of films being made so quickly, the quality of them is questionable. But in this exhibition we don’t see the films themselves, we see the art to poster process that played a part in advertising the films as well as what excited an audience into seeing them. The power of colour, balance of image and text in a graphic image form adds a flare that seems to be lost within a lot of film posters now.
Here we see images that depict the role of the spy, both as a profession and a reflection of them as propaganda; this was something people aspired to be. They are super humans, independent and smart. Nothing truly goes wrong in the end. A surprising addition was seeing some female representation, and not just that of the Bond girl type. Some of the posters made strong and empowering women front and centre. It shows a lot about the era, and a reflection on the times of the Cold War.
I had the opportunity to speak to the curator, Richard Rhys Davies, about his collection and his love of cinema. It was great to speak to someone so passionate about his work, and this is well reflected in his exhibit.
I urge you to go see this exhibition and gaze upon the beauty of the brush like strokes and rich texture in these original posters which have been so lovingly collected, framed and presented in the gallery space.