When Jordan Bolton watches a movie, he really watches it. “I must have watched The Royal Tenenbaums 10 times,” he says. “And when you’re pausing at every frame, a film will take five hours.” He’s not trying to drive himself mad—he’s suffering for his art.
Bolton, an artist in Manchester, England, creates intricate posters based on the rooms and props in films. Hyper-attentive movie-watching is how he captures scenes. “The posters are a way of seeing the film without character or plot, just through the details,” he says. “You get the minute detail that you don’t see when you first watch it.” (Like, for example, Wes Anderson’s frequent use of knives and playing cards.)
While watching a film he’s selected for his Objects series, Bolton pauses every new frame, taking screenshots of interesting details. He compiles a list of 100 or so objects in the movie, and determines what he can reuse from old posters and what he must make. He buys most of the materials at a nearby dollar store, spending about $50 for each poster. Assembling props takes about a week, cutting up an old hat to create the raccoon cap in Moonrise Kingdom, or shaping and spray-painting white mounting putty to create the gold jewelry from Carol. Finally, Bolton lays everything out on a sheet of background paper, arranging them with an attention to detail appreciated only by equally meticulous viewers: four symmetrical quadrants from before and after Therese and Carol meet each other, Margot and Richie’s belongings separated by a yellow suitcase.
For his Rooms series, which he started in August, Bolton watches each film just once or twice—but in slow motion. He takes screenshots of each room, and organizes those photos into different file folders. Then, he draws out a floor plan and uses paper, foam, and white tack to recreate spaces like the futuristic living room from Her or Jack Rabbit Slim’s from Pulp Fiction.
The posters are a way of seeing the film without character or plot, just through the details. You get the minute detail that you don’t see when you first watch it. Jordan Bolton
To photograph each poster, which measures anywhere from 3 x 3 feet to 8 x 5 feet, Bolton climbs up a ladder, leans forward on a water pipe spanning his studio, and outstretches his arm to snap the picture. “It was pretty trial-and-error, but eventually I’d get the angle right,” he says.
For the new series, Bolton is looking less for the meticulous props of a Wes Anderson film and more for architecture that conveys a mood. “In Her, there’s a sense of loneliness within these characters, and you can see that in the futuristic style of the rooms,” he says.
Bolton plans to continue both series, and also start a third set of posters based on movie costumes next year. “When I see new films now, I’m always looking in the background—it’s not even a choice,” he says. “It creates a whole different dimension to what you’re seeing.” Hopefully when he’s done, he’ll still be able to enjoy movies in theaters—even if they won’t play them in slow motion.