Artists translate cinema hits into book covers for BFI Film Classics

The BFI and Bloomsbury have teamed up for the relaunch of the BFI Film Classics book series, which features reimagined covers honouring iconic movies including 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Big Lebowski and Spirited Away

When the BFI and Bloomsbury decided to collaborate on relaunching the beloved Film Classics book series, 19 artists were about to get what is, for many, a dream commission from Bloomsbury lead designer Lou Dugdale: to transform the essence of an iconic film into a captivating cover design.

The books are authored by critics, novelists, poets and philosophers, offering analyses of some of cinema’s most memorable works, from French New Wave film Cléo de 5 à 7 to treasured anime picture, Spirited Away. Elsewhere are books on Kubrick’s futuristic masterpiece 2001: A Space Odyssey, Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing, classic fugitive drama Thelma & Louise, Hitchcock thriller The Birds, and La Dolce Vita by Federico Fellini.

Also included in the collection is a book on The Big Lebowski, with a cover created by Max Loeffler. “I tried to adopt the point of view of the Dude himself. He gets thrown into this chaotic chain of odd events, while at the same time keeping his cool and sipping on several White Russians throughout the movie,” Loeffler tells CR. “That’s why I placed a jumble of objects from the movie on the cover with the Dude still being unflappable.”

BFI Film Classics
Top: The Birds cover by Nick Morley. Here: The Big Lebowski cover by Max Loeffler
BFI Film Classics
Pandora’s Box cover by Federica Masini

For Pandora’s Box, Berlin-based artist Federica Masini had the opportunity to depict one of her favourite characters in cinema, Lou Lou. Opting for her usual choice of watercolour, Masini aimed to create an “evanescent effect”, as though the characters “reappeared from the past or were about to disappear from the present”, and enhance Lou Lou’s “elusive” nature.

New York-based artist Yuko Shimizu created the cover for the book on lauded Japanese period film Sanshō Dayū, recreating a pivotal image from the film yet at the same time enhancing elements, such as making the bamboo more prominent and introducing colour. “Adding colour to a black and white film was a challenge,” Shimizu tells CR. “I envisioned the kimono as feminine but dusty pink. I kept most of the colours very dull and muted, so it won’t interfere with the colours audience fill in their head while watching the movie.”

BFI Film Classics
Sanshō Dayū cover by Yuko Shimizu
BFI Film Classics
Touch of Evil cover by Julia Soboleva

Meanwhile Julia Soboleva’s mixed-media cover for Richard Deming’s book on Touch of Evil remains distinctly monochrome and “sunless”. “The hypnotic world Orson Welles created in Touch of Evil is full of dark alleys and dubious hotel rooms. It is stuffy, claustrophobic and inhabited by the shadows,” Soboleva explains.

Inspired by a scene in which corrupt police captain Hank Quinlan, played by Welles, crushes a pigeon egg, she depicted his eyes as “empty”, where “the only light we can see in there is an ominous reflection of the ball-shaped object (the pigeon’s egg) he is holding in his hand. And as we know – it will be destroyed by him in an instant and the light will go off.”

BFI Film Classics published by Bloomsbury are available now;