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JFK (1992)

Oliver Stone’s controversial examination of the assassination of US President John F. Kennedy is engrossing, challenging and provocative. This poster for the movie isn’t quite as powerful – though that’s not a bad thing – but it what does do really well is compile some very iconic imagery into an attractive, attention-grabbing whole.

There are three very potent images included here. The first is the shot of Jackie Kennedy reaching over the back of the car with the Security Service agent rushing toward her. Even if you were unaware of the context of that image, you’d still know there was something wrong there, that this woman was in trouble. Knowing the context adds sympathy, sorrow, grief and shock, and the image’s inclusion is a poignant and concise reminder of the events of 22 November 1963.

In contrast, the image of Lee Harvey Oswald clasping a rifle in one hand and copies of the Communist paper The Militant in the other, provokes a different reaction. Whether you regard him as an assassin or a patsy, there’s something about Oswald’s look to camera that makes the viewer a little uneasy. Whatever his involvement in the death of John F. Kennedy, Oswald is still someone who invites suspicion, and this image reinforces that feeling with quiet authority.

Lastly, and perhaps less obviously, there is the torn American flag, a symbol of the “loss of innocence” America as a nation felt in the wake of Kennedy’s death. This was an event that – if such a thing is truly possible – damaged the nation’s psyche. It’s inclusion is the poster’s most subtle aspect, and mixed with the other two images, creates a compelling reflection on the movie’s subject matter.

The further inclusion of an image of Kevin Costner as District Attorney Jim Garrison doesn’t really add anything to the overall design, and appears more of a marketing idea than anything else. But the tag line is certainly apt, and rounds off the poster’s effect quite nicely: “The Story That Won’t Go Away”. How true, indeed.

Agree? Disagree? Feel free to let me know.