Spike Lee films and controversy often go together, and the director’s upcoming Clockers, which opens Sept. 13, is running true to form. This time, however, it’s not the movie — based on Richard Price’s 1992 novel about drugs and murder in the inner city — that’s raising eyebrows, but the poster art. It bears a striking resemblance to the famed design used to promote Otto Preminger’s classic 1959 courtroom drama, Anatomy of a Murder.
Though ”appropriation” has been an art-world vogue in recent years, Saul Bass, who created the Anatomy poster, was not pleased to learn of the similarity. ”It’s disappointing anybody would do that,” says Bass. ”It’s flattering that someone would look back and say it’s terrific. But I’m also puzzled. Do these people have such paucity of imagination — and the chutzpah — that they would do this and think it would remain undetected?”
Universal declined to comment, but Lee admits the Clockers poster, by his longtime collaborator Art Sims, represents only a slight change from Bass’ Anatomy work. (”We have the head on backwards,” he notes.) ”I was paying homage to one of the most famous designers in the industry,” says Sims. ”It’s a salute rather than a rip-off.” Bass remains unimpressed: ”The convention is when anyone steals something, they call it an homage.”