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Thailand's unique movie posters steal the show

Hand-painted montages and their artists play starring role in Bangkok exhibition

Poster artist Banhan Thaitanaboon at the "Bai Pid" exhibition at Bangkok’s Woof Pack gallery. After a decadeslong hiatus from movie poster painting, growing fan interest and special commissions have led him to pick up his paintbrush again. (Courtesy of Tanasak Boonlam)

BANGKOK -- Among cinemagoers of a certain vintage, Steven Spielberg's "Jaws" (1975) is best remembered for its anxiety-inducing two-note theme music, memorable dialogue and pioneering animatronics. For thrill-seeking Thai audiences of the mid-1970s, however, there was another element that added to the classic movie's violent and visceral appeal: the local poster.

Banhan Thaitanaboon's hand-painted reworking of Roger Kastel's famous poster design -- a single image of a female swimmer being approached by the eponymous shark from below -- includes morsels of drama lifted directly from the film. From its smoke-clogged top half, cinematic scenes emerge like post-traumatic flashbacks. We see Roy Scheider clasping a rusty knife, children running from the shallows, a shark cage being mauled. Together these vignettes were, in combination with Kastel's iconic graphic, the cinema advertising equivalent of fish chum swirling in perilous waters: designed to lure in passersby.

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