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Stony Brook Film Festival features Vintage Film Posters exhibit

Patrons browsing through the exhibit during opening night.  (Photo: Kenneth Ho)
Patrons browsing through the exhibit during opening night. While exhibits are usually not hosted in the Zuccaire Gallery during the summer months, gallery Director Karen Levitov expressed her desire to exhibit vintage film posters in conjunction with the Staller Center’s commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Stony Film Festival. PHOTO CREDIT: KENNETH HO

A Vintage Film Posters exhibit in the Paul W. Zuccaire Gallery at the Staller Center for the Arts complemented the 20th annual Stony Brook Film Festival last week. The exhibit will be featured in the gallery until July 31 and has already welcomed 1,000 visitors.

Typically, the Zuccaire Gallery does not host an exhibit in the summer. However, the director of the gallery, Karen Levitov, saw a unique opportunity that broke the precedent.

“I thought about doing the show because the Staller Center for the Arts is doing the 20th anniversary of the Stony Brook Film Festival this year,” Levitov said. “I thought it would be really fabulous to do vintage film posters in conjunction with the Stony Brook Film Festival.”

The white walls of the Zuccaire Gallery are currently covered with old-time movie posters in all sizes and languages. The posters were all donated from the Chisholm Larsson Gallery in Manhattan.

Levitov said that she found it interesting to learn about the history of film posters as she picked them out for the exhibit. She explained that film posters started out as advertisements for films, but decades later took off as an art form. These posters were not thought of as works of art until after World War II, adding that shift in the perception of movie posters, which makes pieces from the 40s and earlier very rare. This exhibitions oldest poster is a Charlie Chaplin poster from 1931.

The reason she decided to get all of the art from one gallery is because the Chisholm Larsson Gallery was very enthusiastic about participating in the project, Levitov said.

Alan Inkles, director of the Staller Center and the Stony Brook Film Festival, accompanied Levitov to pick out which posters should be in the exhibition.

“We were looking at ones that had kind of a combination of some really iconic films and some well known actors, as well as some more rare films and unknown actors and unknown movies, but that had a beautiful visual impact,” Levitov said.

Well-known actors whose faces appear in the exhibit include Audrey Hepburn on a “My Fair Lady” poster, Uma Thurman on the “Pulp Fiction” poster and Ralph Macchio on a poster for the Italian version of “The Outsiders.”

Macchio, a frequent attendee of the Stony Brook Film Festival,  made an appearance at the gallery and took a photo in front of his poster.

Long Island native and actor Ralph Macchio posing with the Italian film poster for the movie The Outsiders.  (Photo: Kenneth Ho)
Long Island native and actor Ralph Macchio posing with the Italian film poster for the movie “The Outsiders.” PHOTO CREDIT: KENNETH HO

The exhibition also featured a film reel of old Charlie Chaplin films playing on the wall. Samantha Clink, the Gallery and Community Relations Assistant, said it was nice to see children come to the exhibit and laugh at the Chaplin films.

“That’s probably my favorite part of the show,” Clink said. “You’ve got these little kids and they are watching Charlie Chaplin, which was filmed in 1916 and they’re hysterically laughing. It’s kind of neat to see that old film style now being reborn and watching the kids enjoy it as well.”

The exhibit garnered positive buzz from the campus community and those who attended the film festival. One of the ideas Inkles had was to choose posters from the same countries as the foreign films being shown at the festival.

A unique aspect of the exhibit is that the posters are displayed in a casual style rather than in frames.  The posters are hung on the walls of the gallery by pins in the linen backings.

“It shows kind of the spirit of the posters, which was casual advertising at the time,” Levitov said. “It’s presented in a museum-like way here, but also in a casual, back-to-it’s-origins kind of way.”

The traffic from the film festival helped the success of the exhibit, as many of the people who came to see the festival, which draws in hundreds, stopped in the gallery.

“It’s been really fun to have it and hear the response,” Levitov said.

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