Discover our jazz-inspired alternative artwork for Cold War

Cold War, the latest film from Oscar-winning director Paweł Pawlikowski, arrives in cinemas and on demand this Friday. Ahead of its release, Avalon from the Curzon Artificial Eye team takes us through the reveal of exclusive new alternative artwork for the film, and the process behind its design.

We’ve been crazy about Cold War ever since Curzon picked up the film, fresh from its Best Director win in Cannes. It’s dreamlike and elliptical, spanning decades and continents to tell a story about complicated love and missed opportunities. It is also visually stunning and musically rich, charting a melodic journey that mirrors its geographical one.

We start out in the ruins of post-war Poland, as two musicians, Wiktor and Zula, meet during auditions for a traditional travelling music troupe. We watch Zula perform a rendition of an old Polish folk song, ‘Dwa Serduszka’ (‘Two Hearts’), as Wiktor conducts. In its traditional arrangement, the song is haunting and beautiful.

Time passes quickly – as it always does in this film – and we leave Poland behind, rejoining our two characters in a dimly lit, smoke-filled basement jazz club of late 1950s Paris. Again, we hear Zula perform this same song – but this time, as a sultry, slow jazz arrangement, strikingly different but equally beautiful. This performance features in our main trailer for the film, and suffice to say, we’ve been singing it around the office for months.

We wanted to tip our hat to the iconic visual style of this era in jazz with a very special alternative artwork commission, which we’re very excited to share with you here.

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We approached illustrator Oli Cuthbertson with the idea of producing a piece of alternative artwork inspired by the design of jazz vinyl covers from the 1950s and 1960s.

We knew Oli was the man for the job. “When Curzon asked me to design an alternative poster for Cold War I was thrilled,” he says, “not least because the jazz LP aesthetic of the '50s and '60s has always been a great love of mine. The challenge involved designing something that referenced the jazz of the era and the mood and tone of the film, while also making the characters recognisable.”

Here you can see some of the images that inspired the work:

These designs are wild and experimental, but still fine and elegant – and incredibly rich in style and detail. We loved their use of line drawing and deconstructed collage, as well as the interplay between typography, images and illustration.

“We researched all kinds of LP covers from classic Miles Davis to Charlie Parker,” Oli says, “before settling on these abstract, cut out shapes and stark angular forms which break up the characters, separated by the symbolic wall of keys.”

We wanted to frame Wiktor and Zula on either side of the artwork, bordered by these blocky, Saul Bass-inspired illustrated elements and honing in on a single, evocative detail for each – his cigarette with its curling smoke, and her microphone.

In the film, time again marches on, and the couple don’t stay in Paris forever. Maybe this is our way of keeping them there...


Find Oli Cuthbertson on Instagram @cuthbertsonart

Cold War arrives in cinemas and on demand 31 August.