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Read my lips

A film poster inspires self-expression

Poster Child for Creativity: Mouthless girl has been lipsticked at 86th St./Central Park West subway stop; below (from top to bottom), stations at 72nd St., 23rd St. and Eighth Ave.
The freaky poster for the movie "Silent Hill," showing a girl with no mouth, is designed to get people talking.

It's also got them drawing.

Around the city, people are pulling out pens, markers and even lipstick (petal pink, at the 86th and Central Park West subway station) and filling in the child's blank expression.

Seems New Yorkers can't resist putting on a happy face. Everything from simple smileys to huge, gap-toothed grins to O-shaped pouts have appeared on the mouthless mug of 11-year-old actress Jodelle Ferland, who co-stars in the film, opening next Friday.

Some creative types have attached stickers; others have added pictures and puns naughty enough to make a bystander blush.

There's more going on here than outlaw artwork. The artists might unconsciously be leaving telltale clues about themselves. "The mouth expresses a whole range of emotions," says Manhattan psychotherapist Doe Lang. "As such, the drawings represent their feelings about how safe it is to smile."

A tiny mouth — like the sippy-straw- size "o" added to another poster on the upper West Side — might indicate a "tightly buttoned-up person," says Lang. "But someone who draws an enormous Julia Roberts-size smile is apt to feel like the world is a friendly place."

The people behind "Silent Hill" are feeling less than friendly toward the amateur Picassos.

"We're not happy about the fact that people are drawing on the poster, because other people then don't get to see it clean," says Marc Weinstock, a vice president at Sony Pictures. "But we are glad they're not dismissing it. It's arresting. People can't ignore it."

Indeed. Beyond graffiti, there's another sign that the "Silent Hill" poster has registered. A version of it on gossip site had Katie Holmes' face superimposed, along with the title "Silent Birth" — an allusion to Holmes' rumored labor and delivery plans.

Time was, when you wanted people's attention, you whispered. Now, apparently, it's silence that's golden.

Originally published on April 12, 2006

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