25 February 2015

Makoto Wada’s Movie Inspired Art 2: Hollywood Classics



Makoto Wada (和田誠, b. 1936) is best known as an illustrator whose work has adorned the pages of writers as diverse as Shinichi Hoshi, Haruki Murakami, and Agatha Christie.  In addition to illustration, he has also dabbled in film directing and animation – winning the Noburo Ofuji Award for 1964 for his comic animated short Murder (殺人).  In Murder, he spoofs a wide variety of famous film and literary icons including Poirot, Sam Spade, Dracula and James Bond.  He has also done a range of paintings inspired by film stars and classic movies.  This is my second in a series of posts looking at his art and his cinematic muses.  See: Part 1: Early Hollywood.

You can support this artist by ordering collections of his work such as:



This image of Marilyn Monroe is not from a movie, but it is one of the iconic images of the more personal side of Marilyn that the press rarely saw in the 1950s.  Instead of looking all glammed up, Marilyn is dressed in a modest bathing suit and is reading from her copy of James Joyce's modernist novel Ulysses (1922).  The photo was taken by Eve Arden in 1954 on Long Island where Monroe was visiting her friend the poet Norman Rosten.   I find it interesting that Wada has chosen to partially obscure Marilyn's face, yet she is still instantly recognizable by her trademark hair and mole.  The boldly coloured bathing suit doubtless appealed to Wada's eye for colour, and the blue background matches her beautiful blue eyes.  


Audrey Hepburn embodied Hollywood glamour in the adaptation of Truman Capote's novel Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961).  Hepburn shines like a ray of light in a black space in Wada's portrait of her.   


In the neo-noir film L.A. confidential Kim Basinger embodied Hollywood elegance of the Golden Era.  I love how Mada makes the black and white of her cloak pop by giving her such a dramatic colour for the background.  

Although this image has all the key elements (costume, chair) to make Liza Minnelli in Bob Fosse's Caberet (1972) recognizable, I think this is one of Wada's less successful homages.   He makes the character of Sally Bowles more kawaii than erotic.  It's a lovely image but it misses the mark for me.  

Bernardo Bertolucci may be a European director, but his epic The Last Emperor was a large scale Hollywood production with an international cast.  Winning 9 Oscars at the 60th Academy Awards, it was certainly the film of 1987.  I like how Wada pares the iconic film poster down to its key elements: the boy emperor Puyi and his castle.  If you haven't seen the film, you should, if only for the amazing Ryuichi Sakamoto / David Byrne / Cong Su soundrack:





Next: Makoto Wada's Movie Inspired Art 3: European Classics

2015 Cathy Munroe Hotes

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