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: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?


The Concert Trailer

I implore you all to not watch the American trailer playing for this film on iTunes.

The trailer here, while not entirely all that different from its gentrified, English speaking cousin, just hits me in the heart in the way that you can tell when someone is being genuine and when someone is putting on airs. The long and the short of it is director/writer Radu Mihaileanu seems to have made a film that’s funny but yet has hints that this could be hiding an emotional edge underneath it all.

To wit, in the American trailer it’s spelled out, not even vaguely hinted at, in a ham-fisted way that this man who is on conducting duty at the beginning of both trailers, was in fact a conductor himself in a former life as the American trailer indicates. The other trailer here, that I appreciate a lot more, is vague about why the janitor is helping to lead an orchestra from the cheap seats. It seems very Good Will Hunting meets Masterpiece Theater in this trailer and, in fact, this vagueness is amplified even more when our local dust bin thrower outer intercepts a fax asking this Russian orchestra to fly on over to France and play. In a series of events that are hilarious, to me anyway, the man puts together a band with people of varying degrees of competency and mental acuity.

It’s completely nutty, as when one of our guys gets on the phone with the contact in France and speaks in a rhythm and cadence that I found funny in a subtle, yet obnoxious, way.  The American trailer has no nuance, no surprises, and it’s all very sterile. Whereas here we have a narrative taking shape as the man literally puts a band together. The characters, to be sure, are all exaggerated for effect but it works in this case as we meet those who will be this man’s orchestral backbone.

That’s when Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) comes in and provides the emotional counterweight to a film that seems it could skate by on its impish charm. The woman simply needs to be in more films as she radiates a beauty that compliments the wonderful soundtrack.

As well, you can actually feel the narrative shift from one of frivolity to one of heartache at the 1:44 mark. As our conductor and Laurent share a fine dinner the conversation shifts to regrets and pain. I know I sound like a shill for this film but the movie has me at this point as it just decimates its American counterpart with the range it displays in its presentation.

I take solace knowing that foreign films don’t always have to be meditations on the nature of men’s souls, that there is a place for movies about loss and regret that can also be amusing at the same time. If there was a trailer I would hope honestly is selling a movie that actually exists I would hope this movie is the one telling the truth.

As it stands, this is one of my favorite trailers of the year.

FrICTION Trailer

I don’t know if I should be creeped out or thrilled at the prospect of watching a story about a teacher who “really likes” one of her students. It’s kind of a fantasy that any adolescent boy has had growing up if they were listening to the hormones popping like rockets in their bodies and I know I count myself as one of them.

However, from the guy who made the really engaging and introspective Monster Camp, Cullen Hoback, about shut-ins and nerds who just want to dress up and play fight, comes a film that sorta kinda feels like a documentary but has the sheen of something more sinister.

The opening is pretty good in establishing the rules of the movie. I will admit that it’s thorough, informative, and leaves nothing to the imagination about what we’re about to see. Although, by the time all the rules are laid out I found myself just spinning trying to figure out how it all applies to what I’m seeing. The musical cues don’t help matters in trying to make this a feel-good kind of experience because, if you’re hearing the morose tones coming out of the speaker, you’re likely to think this is about a mass murderer and not some cutesy art film about a teacher trying to give a kid a handy.

The narrative flows fairly well as we get to know everyone and try to understand how each person fits within this grand vision of a movie that is supposed to seem like a documentary but something gets lost in the presentation. I feel at times it does feel like a faux doc but then it swings wildly into scripted film territory and I’m unsure of how to frame this film.

I am intrigued by the thought that is going into constructing this reality, I am, but I think more is needed in order to make me feel that spending money to see how it goes is a worthwhile investment. Side note: The filmmakers are looking for help to do just that, invest in the film’s distribution.

I Didn’t Come Here To Die Trailer

A trailer that feels like an old pair of well worn sweatpants, this thing just seems comfortable.

There isn’t a reinvention of the wheel, or thinking outside the box, or anything else that would give the impression that this is a production set on “reimagining” the genre but that’s OK. Sometimes it’s just nice to get back to basics and director/writer/cinematographer Bradley Scott Sullivan seems to think that this would be a good exercise in making a movie that could at once hearken back to a fun age of cinematic horror while being solidly entertaining to a 21st century audience.

By the looks of the trailer, it looks like the local boy has done well.

Huge fan, right from the word go, with the vintage look of the trailer. It sets the mood, it subliminally tells you exactly where his aesthetics are at, and it allows us to not wonder for long about what kind of movie we’re being sold. He’s selling schlocky horror, or so it would seem, and the beats that it takes with the young adults going into the woods, the foreshadowing with the underage liquor purchase, the obnoxious flaunting of immature sexuality, it all adds up to an independent horror movie that wants to embrace the form yet have a unique voice.

While the musical score that we get mid-way through this thing feels like something I would have picked for a goth funeral it doesn’t take away from the shifting moments we’re given about what happens in these woods. The movie is something more than just your basic slasher flick in that we get people with axes; there is lots of spurting blood; a chainsaw is embedded in the face of one girl (Francis Gremp would be proud of the make-up jobs on display, but there is also the undead. There are a few moments where zombies seem to be roaming this kill box along with the usual nuttiness that happens where there is something deadly on the loose but the cacophony of so much going on actually attracts me more than it repels.

While it looks like people are turning on one another, and that anarchy is all around, I am actually entertained. While I would usually be upset with a trailer for trying to make me put together the puzzle myself there is some real talent here.

I think that horror can sell itself on the strength of its effects but what’s on display is more than enough to pique my interest in seeing whether there is more behind the man who thought to facially embed a chainsaw. [Twitch]

Down Terrace Trailer

There’s such a weird, but fantastic, dynamic that is playing out on the screen as you watch this.

Normally, when you don’t have anything of use to say in your trailer you at least try and fake it with fast editing, disjointed narrative tidbits thrown in that do nothing to explain the story, and slap it all together with a catchy tune or a hypnotic synth beat in the hopes of masking their ineptitude.

What’s here, though, should at least make you wonder and get interested in what’s actually happening. I don’t know word one about these people in this trailer but I know I want to get to know them. Through director/co-writer Ben Wheatley’s first foray into feature length films this seems like an interesting examination into a wicked troubled family. Wheatley’s wheelhouse, and those in merry ol’ England would know better than I would, seems to have a heavy emphasis on comedy. Specifically, with stints on the pretty funny Modern Toss and the hit and miss antics of The Wrong Door, his skills seemed to be honed on the funny. However, the laughter is nowhere to be found in a trailer that starts with a mother stroking her adult child’s head as she sings him a lullaby.

The adult man child has a little bit of blood on his shirt as a hardscrabble looking man sits in a chair, furiously smoking as if it were his means of breathing.  We’re given a shot of the boy coming out of a police station, looking all pensive, as we then get shots of a pregnant woman and violence popping up on the screen.

I don’t know what’s to be made of this older kid yelling, punching, struggling, and getting absolutely demented on people but I like it. At one point a plastic bag is quickly wrapped around someone’s body as they stand (Whaaa?), an older dude either is having a heart attack or is shot as he’s walking outside, and the patriarch we saw earlier sucking on a fag seems to be the one man no one dare cross.

Our fumbling son is shown in one of the longest sequences just having a complete meltdown with his neck wear. It would be comical if it weren’t so tense, and I love that I am really uneasy with the idea that this seems like a crime movie without the crime, but the cinematography and the directorial decisions made in this trailer are simply spectacular. The tones and hues feel more natural than anything else, style giving way to a more honest presentation.

Note 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

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

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