Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? This week we get on the boat with some zombies, get weird with the Chinese, find a bisexual life partner, go on walkabout with a lonely man, and get some culture by visiting a museum in Vienna.

Still Life Trailer

Yes.

I don’t know what it is about Eddie Marsan but he can absolutely riveting when all fired up. He’s versatile and imbues a kind of flavor to his performances that are distinctly his own. What director Uberto Pasolini seems to have eked out of Marsan is something closer to a raw humanity that seems all but lost in many of our cinematic protagonists. The story seems thin, and as you watch it you can’t help but feel that the word “Pass” should be muttered as you go onto something else, but, I would assert, Marsan is a genuine delight here. He brings this seemingly sleepy story of a man who works with the dead into a life worth watching. Sometimes it’s about trying to see what’s of value in a trailer but here it’s obvious that even the pull quote that should have been pushed to the front can’t hide the fact that this is a movie that rests on only one pair of shoulders. A true slice-of-life where it’s the dead who help make a connection to those among the living.

Zhong Kui: Snow Girl and the Dark Crystal Trailer

Nope, I’ve got no clue either.

One of the things I love, when I realize it, is seeing how those who have been involved on one side of movie making transition to the other side. In this case it’s Peter Pau, cinematographer for films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, The Killer and even 2007’s Shoot ‘Em Up. Pau is double teaming this directorial effort with Tianyu Zhao and the results, at the very least, look wildly impressive. If movies are a commodity that are meant to entice and beguile with their artistry you can do no better than feast your eyes on this orgasm of color and flourish. I haven’t a damn clue what is going on here and the synopsis does me no favors:

Legendary Chinese anti-hero Zhong Kui, a young man endowed with mysterious powers who is forced into a battle among the realms of Heaven, Earth and Hell in the course of his attempt to save his countrymen and the woman he loves.

Sounds like any other film of this ilk with its preponderance of the other-worldly but what makes this such a catch is how fluid it all works. Trailers are about tempo and style and efficiency so what we have here is an equal balance of all these things working in concert. While the actual contribution to the storytelling portion of things is next to absent, there’s still an undeniable charm to a movie filled with colors and movements that promise to deliver a feast to eyes hungry for something fantastic.

[REC] 4: Apocolypse Trailer

Figures.

One of the things that I know most foreign language marketing teams must grapple with is whether or not to let anyone open their mouths. Not wanting to tip your hand that you’re a movie where you have employ your reading skills must have some kind of financial danger associated with it because this trailer does all it can to not let anyone say a damn word. I wasn’t really a fan of the first trailer and director Jaume Balaguero isn’t being done a lot of favors with this version either. Too many obnoxious pull quotes, not enough clarification on why we’re all gathered here, no explanation why zombies are aboard this freighter, it all adds to something not smelling right and it’s not the stench of the undead. While there is a thrill at the thought of a zombie film where no one has anywhere to go and the problems it presents, I’m still left wondering why you wouldn’t just give an audience who knows this is not from ‘Murica what they want and just let the people speak their minds.

Appropriate Behavior Trailer

I’m attracted to the story.

Let’s just put this out there: If this was any friend of mine I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to handle the deep level of dryness. What I mean by that is there’s something that borders on precious when we meet writer/director/actress Desiree Akhavan but she’s fabulous. She seems adrift in a sea of uncertainty about the direction her life is going but the trailer does an excellent job in showing us the many permutations of her personality. She’s brusque, witty, vulnerable, but, the best part, she’s assertive. She may not know what she wants but she appears to be a great welcomer of whatever comes into her life. It’s like if Frances Ha were written with more pathos. There’s a chance at something genuine for someone who appears to want something more and I’m inclined to watch to see if she gets it.

The Great Museum Trailer

I recently visited the Art Institute of Chicago and came upon an exhibit that genuinely, truly raised the hairs on the back of my neck and filled me with great unease. It is called Clown Torture by artist Bruce Nauman and it is literally the originator of the kind of nightmare fuel that powers the very worst anxieties you might have about clowns. What makes the exhibit so profound, though, is that it proves the worth of museums and the value they bring societies.

Director Johannes Holzhausen gives a rather Frederick Wiseman-y look at the goings on inside a museum and it’s damn serene. I was filled with a great sense of ease and comfort as we go back and forth inside a dense organization like this and peering into a process that most people wouldn’t normally give a second thought to understanding. There is no narrative here and, like a Wiseman documentary, we hang back to soak it all in. There isn’t anything terribly sexy or evocative here but, like Clown Torture, the net effect should be that we feel something by experiencing the art of what we’re presented.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers to possibly be included in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at Christopher_Stipp@yahoo.com or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week:

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