Monthly Archives: October 2015

The Unparalleled Japanese Artist (Part III): Hisamitsu Noguchi, Admired by the French Filmmaker François Truffaut

As we have discussed earlier on this blog, film ephemera have evolved from the simple stereotypical style when there were lots of strict conventions, such as presenting the film title and a close-up still of the lead actor or actress, to a variety of elaborate designs. Beginning in the 1980s, as all aspects of film diversified, film poster artists developed their own style. Today, film ephemera, the direct form of film promotion, are no longer merely commercial media; they have been established as a place for artists to display their interpretation of each film, beyond the movie screen.

The Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York

Japanese variant design by Noguchi. British film flier. FOR YOUR EYES ONLY (1981), directed by John Glen

Here is another interesting story about one Japanese artist and his work, who was supported by an innovative film company, caught the eye of one French filmmaker. The subsequent series of artwork was eventually highly received internationally.

Hisamitsu Noguchi (1909-1994), a graphic designer as well as a famous jazz and musical critic, was one of the notable cinema poster designers for pre- and post-war films in Japan.

Noguchi was originally a true film aficionado, and he belonged to a cinema club after joining the Tokyo School of Fine Arts (currently Tokyo University of the Arts). While he initiated lots of projects, including independent film productions, his interest in European films led him to design film posters rather than film production itself. The color, composition and typography of posters for European films, especially elegant designs by Soviet Union and German creators, genuinely influenced his esthetic and artistic sensibility, including those for Sergei Eisenstein’s Old and New/Старое и новое/Staroye i novoye (1929) and Aleksandr Dovzhenko‘s Earth/Земля/Zemlya (1930). Thus, Noguchi chose to design original posters for his graduation project. The project, consisting of seven posters, including Germany’s 1931 film Mädchen in Uniform/Girls in Uniform, was sublime in quality, and all the posters were purchased by the art school (Nemoto, 2011).

The Makino Collection, Columbia University in the City of New York

Designed by Noguchi. A program of French Film Festival in Tokyo ’66


Noguchi had long been wanting to join a film company as a creator, particularly Tōwa. Tōwa, the pioneer of European film distribution, was established by Nagamasa Kawakita (1903-1981), and it had long been Noguchi’s dream film company. In 1933, Noguchi had his dream come true; he finally joined Tōwa, after frequent visits to the company with his portfolio of original film posters. Soon after, this young man, who was just a big film fan, made it all the way to the top of cinema culture. Continue reading