© Splendid Film / 24 Bilder Film GmbH

Squaring the Circle: The Story of Hipgnosis
U.K. 2022

Opening 14 Mar 2024

Directed by: Anton Corbijn
Writing credits: Trish D Chetty

The Cambridge crowd, a “pack” of creative characters, descended on London in 1961. Director Anton Corbijn, himself is an art director, photographer, and filmmaker. His debut film features fresh subject matter and takes audiences on a time travel from that point into the 1980s. The conventionally constructed, engaging documentary’s untraditional protagonists are the crème de la crème of those eras’ legendary rock bands. “They represented the golden age of the music business.”

Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey "Po" Powell’s friendship solidified after a police incident at Cambridge. Po’s friendly narration leads us through merging his unconventional photography and irritable, egotistical, cantankerous Storm’s visionary ideas. The name of their formed-on-the-fly legendary design agency evolved from a Syd Barrett scribble. Living at Egerton Court in (now swanky) South Kensington, a filmmaking team’s abandoned lighting equipment was a godsend, a toilet-less dive in Soho—on Denmark Street—where the dynamic design duo set up shop. Hipgnosis came together with old friends’ Pink Floyd’s 1968 second album cover, A Saucerful of Secrets; Roger Waters, David Gilmour, and Nick Mason add commentary. The 1973 tipping point was “like getting a call from god.” A Beatle phoned. Po and Paul McCartney’s stories about various Wings covers execution, e.g., Band on the Run (1973), Wings Greatest (1978), are entertaining. “We got off on a very, very good start.” Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, “They came as a double act,” contribute. As well: 10cc’s Graham Gouldman, Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, Sex Pistols' Glen Matlock, Jenny Lesmoir-Gordon, photographer Jill Furmanovsky, designers George Hardie, Richard Evans, retoucher Richard Manning, businessman Merck Mercuriadis, Factory Records co-founder Peter Saville and artist/musician Humphrey Ocean. It was a heady time, and they were at its center; their brilliant album covers ruled until 1982. Gallagher shrewdly says, “Back in the 60s rock stars were artists, designers were artists, and nowadays they are just commodities.”

Squaring the Circle’s most compelling aspect is seeing how the dynamics of creative conceptualization design works. From beginning to end, audiences experience how ideas evolved using imaginative faculty and resourcefulness, instead of relying on computer-generated imagery. Production values are good. Storm’s forte may have been creative foresightedness, but Po was the creative doer with follow-through that made it possible for the Hipgnosis genius to shine. Without which Storm’s star might never have climbed. (Marinell Haegelin)

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