Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Bride Scorned


THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR has long been a favorite of mine. (You’ll probably hear me say that about a LOT of the films I have done blu-ray covers for. But, not ALL of them.) The original HK poster for BRIDE hung on my studio wall for over a decade and, as much as I loved the image with its deep colors and photogenic leads, the fact that the bride with "white hair" sported "black hair" in the poster always bugged me. So I knew right away when doing the art for the film that I would represent her AFTER her hair transitioned to white. My white haired bride would have white hair. Naturally.

I’ve also never been a fan of anachronistic packaging. So for instance, if the film was made in 1955 then the packaging or marketing materials should look as if they were made around that same time, with a 1955 approach to the art style. After all, the cover is meant to represent the product inside. (Hong Kong action fans who bared witness to that ubiquitous mid-90s Jackie Chan "black t-shirt photo" used on dozens of re-released films dating back to his teen years know what I mean.) Come on. Try a little harder.

So in representing a romantic action fantasy film from 1993, the requisite I set for myself was to create a cover piece that prominently featured the two famous leads, hints at their interaction and teases the action element, while setting the tone and atmosphere in a bold visual style befitting a film from that era.

Many currently popular art styles, commonly represented in the awesome work of Mondo, reinterpret the visual tone of old films with modern graphic art styles. As if to say, “What if John Carpenter’s THE THING were made TODAY? How would it marketed to a younger generation? What if it looked more like the cover of a graphic novel?” I considered this, but ultimately felt old school was the proper way to go to represent it respectfully. Plus I’m kinda old school myself (or maybe just old), so it was just more natural for me to go that way. Who knows.

This was another Hong Kong film that didn't have a "designed" font for the English title. Just a boring sans-serif ARIAL. So I created a distressed jagged logo with flowing strands of the word BRIDE literally turning white. Set against a blood red swath of watercolor. The billowing snow and hair, and the cracking whip give it some movement, even if the characters are static in their poses. Much like the start/stop feel of the film's action. You can almost hear the image. Leslie Cheung protects the magical rose (as it blooms in his heart) with his broken sword.   

But I felt the main focus should be, of course, Brigitte Lin Ching Hsia's dramatic intense stare. Angry and hurt. Tearful and shocked. Scorned and bitter. Powerful and vengeful to the very end.

For the cover of the Limited Edition book, I fast forwarded to the climax of the film. I felt the image is a bit too "spoilery" for the outer cover, but was just too cool a mental image NOT to create for the book. I had fun with this one. I actually posed for photo reference as all the dead soldiers.  

For the disc art I went with a simpler more graphic style approach. I had less than a hour to do something so I did a simple image (emphasizing Lin's flowing locks) that would hopefully reproduce well when printed on a plastic disc. (I was fairly new to this UK client and wasn't sure of the image quality of their on-disc printing.) I live in the US and their products are not commonly found on shelves here. Heck, blu-rays are getting harder to find in stores in general, much less 30 year-old Hong Kong films re-released by UK companies in Region B.

Surprisingly, a month later I was approached by a German company who particularly liked my disc artwork and asked if they could license it for the outer box cover of THEIR release of the film (packaged along with a new transfer of it's sequel, which sadly wasn't available at the time of the UK release). But it didn't sit well with me to sell the same art to two clients, nor did I want any potential confusion in the marketplace from having the same art on two totally different releases of the film. That defeats the whole point of creating new art for these old filmsit's a selling point that differentiates your release of the film from others. 

So for the German company I created new art in a similar flat style. I spent the better part of a week just drawing individual strands of Brigitte's hair. But her HAIR is the visual 'hook' of the film, so it HAD to be done. Lin looms large over a small figure of Leslie, nestled on his snowy perch, patiently awaiting the rare bloom of the magic flower that will return his love to him. 

It's curious how one thing leads to another. I don't think I would've been approached by the German company to do the art for THE BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR, if I had not ALREADY done the same thing for the UK company. But this stereotyping as a "Brigitte Lin Artist" would not last long, as I was soon off to illustrate JACKIE CHAN, SAMMO HUNG, and YUEN BIAO in three exciting adventures.

But that's another story. For next time.

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