Whether you’re walking around the city or driving through the suburbs, odds are good that you’ve seen signage reminding you to wear a mask. But billboards and subway posters aren’t the only places you’ll find those instructions — a new exhibit at New York’s IFC Center, Mask Up, offers a trip through cinema history that doubles as a foray into all the ways you can wear a mask.
The exhibit was assembled in partnership with the poster shop Posteritati, whose Gallery Manager, Stan Oh, talked us through the collection. He cited Georges Franju’s 1960 film Eyes Without a Face as a standout. “The film and the poster are personal favorites.”
The films represented in the exhibit cover a wide array of genres, including horror, crime dramas and irreverent comedies. “Most of them were either medical dramas/comedies — Young Doctors in Love was a General Hospital spoof — or they were rather dark movies about people who hid their faces due to some misfortune that had befallen them,” Oh said.
They’re also a timely and unexpected reminder that even now, masking up is still important to halting the spread of the pandemic.
The 1982 comedy Young Doctors in Love served as a parody of soap operas, and boasted a surprisingly impressive cast along the way — including Michael McKean, Harry Dean Stanton and a pre-Seinfeld Michael Richards. Its poster also offered an unexpected preview of pandemic-era dating.
What happens when a guilt-ridden plastic surgeon takes a turn for the Gothic? Over half a century after its release, Eyes Without a Face remains an unsettling film to watch, and its impact can still be seen in more recent cinema — including Pedro Almodóvar’s 2011 The Skin I Live In.
Ford v Ferrari wasn’t the first high-profile film to be set against the backdrop of the grueling 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The 1971 film Le Mans starred Steve McQueen and featured footage taken from the previous year’s competition.
A useful fact for your next pub quiz night: Steve Martin has played dentists on screen multiple times. His role in Little Shop of Horrors might be better known, but in 2001 he appeared in the dark comedy Novocaine alongside Laura Dern and Helena Bonham Carter.
Not all of the posters in Mask Up are for medical dramas — some are far from it — but the poster for the 1962 film Colleagues is one of the more straightforward offerings in the show. The film itself focused on a trio of graduates of the Leningrad Medical Institute.
Decades before Black Mirror used speculative elements to grapple with questions of identity and alienation, John Frankenheimer’s Seconds took a similar route. It also features the most existentially harrowing scene of winemaking ever committed to film.
French New Wave filmmaker Claude Chabrol found critical success with 1987’s Masks, a film about a reporter exploring the life of a television personality and investigating his sister’s disappearance.
The 1966 film The Face of Another adapted Kōbō Abe’s acclaimed novel of the same name, and told the story of an injured man who receives a mask nominally identical to his face. As one might expect, things take a turn for the surreal.
This poster for Sergio Leone’s final film, Once Upon a Time in America, demonstrates that outlaws can also model good behavior. And if you’re looking for another film that pairs Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, look no further.
David Lynch’s 1980 drama The Elephant Man received eight Academy Award nominations upon its release, and features a stunningly talented cast and a number of visually arresting posters — including this one.