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?
In what can be considered my very first exclusive for /Film I am genuinely proud to be showcasing a clip from Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1.
A film by Jean-François Riche, and starring Vincent Cassel (next appearing in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan), the story follows the notorious French criminal Jacques Mesrine who lived the life of a very successful criminal in the 1970′s until he met his untimely end at the hands of French authorities. The movies themselves, the first entry into this series being Mesrine: Killer Instinct, were split into two halves of this man’s life. He was so much more than just the man behind the criminal acts he committed and Riche has crafted a masterwork, not only capturing the time in which this all took place but in showcasing Cassel for the powerhouse of talent that he is. Where once he was just the man we all recognized from Oceans 13 as the quiet heavy you can see, in these movies, especially Public Enemy No. 1, an artistic sensibility which is able to vacillate between mindless violence and thoughtful serenity. The man carries both these films and it is a pleasure to give you the best reason, an exclusive reason, to see the rest of the film as it represents two of the best movies I’ve seen all summer with the amount of action and emotional pathos that’s packed into them.
Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1 debuts today in select theaters and will be rolling out in the coming weeks. To see whether it is playing at a location near you simply click the link and find out where and when.
Thanks to Music Box Films for the clip.
The Last Seven Trailer
I always get excited to see a first time director come out of the box with something like this, especially a first time director who’s paired up with a first time writer who has an idea as nutty as this. Paired up, you can see that writer John Stanley and director Imran Naqvi (steadicam operator for such notable notables as Are You Ready for Love? and Goodbye Mr. Snuggles) have a nugget of inspiration here.
While I do think this is a really good trailer, and one I think people should at least look at and comment on, it does burn a lot of time to set things up. Yes, it’s neat that we begin with a watch that just stops on its own and a guy who lumbers out of a slumber on a city sidewalk but there’s seconds of slack here. He’s looking around, he can’t believe any of this, he’s looking all disoriented, but it’s not until almost 45 seconds in before we get that he’s one of the last seven people on earth. Yay, thanks for wasting that time.
We waste even more with this guy as he, again, shuffles around the city and follow him some more before we’re told he doesn’t know who he is. Brevity is important but this concept is completely lost on whoever edited this.
However, when it gets to the 1:10 mark that’s when I am fully on-board with this rocket ride. The music shifts, we get a peek at the other six yahoos as things get wonderfully confusing. What’s with all the guns? What’s with the violence? What’s with the guy getting his eyes squished in (awesome!) with a pair of gloved hands?
The high pitched dog whistle playing in the background is disorienting in itself but it fits with the chaos. Special kudos to DP David Mackie for coating everything in a miserable pallor as it makes everything that much more miserable. This could go either way, speculatively inventive or a crash landing that inevitably happens in the third act when you realize it can’t sustain its high concept. Hoping for the former with this one.
Dark Souls (Mørke Sjeler) Trailer
Ti West’s House of the Devil confirmed for me a suspicion I’ve always had about horror movies after the 1980s: they just looked too damn sharp. Too well lit, too well composed, too well everything as the medium for filmmaking allowed lesser directors for horror create works that didn’t feel like the scuffed pieces of vinyl, so to speak, we enjoyed in the 70’s and 80’s.
There is an aesthetic to producing convincing looking horror and, I would assert, that West not only figured that out and wanted to employ the sensibility he did in order to make his movie the fabulous work it is but, additionally, I feel filmmakers César Ducasse and Mathieu Peteul have also figured this out as well.
The trailer is one of preciousness in the best way possible. It tantalizes and excites with the way the paint shaker-like camera placement helps us enter this twisted world and throws us into a land filled with horror and power tools. I mean, when you begin a trailer with a guerrilla-cam captured kill of a woman getting her head drilled in by some sociopath, out in the middle of some swamp, you’ve got my attention.
What’s so tantalizing about what’s happening on the screen, though, is that this isn’t some killer on the loose kind of film. The dead girl is found, brought to a morgue, only to rise from her fatal slumber while the trailer just gets right to the action with showing the corpse kick around in a body bag, have her then shown sitting at a computer, and then going into a homicidal rage. The woodwind that’s playing that one screeching note that connotes evil just amplifies the weirdness even more as it reaches a fever pitch. Masterfully done.
More kills, more drilling, our cinematic maniac resplendent in an orange prison jumpsuit just completes the picture, and the explanation of what is going on here is satisfying enough. It’s vague, to be sure, but when we see the line of corpses in multiple beds which just look like zombies waiting to be woken up it’s all I can do to contain myself when that one nurse, in the middle of the night no less, says “Hello?” as we see one of the beasts come slinking out from the shadows.
The production value, it should be noted again, just makes this so much more interesting as a vehicle. There appears to be genuine thrills mixed in with some pretty ridiculous moments as our cop on the case gets closer to figuring out what’s up with the oil that’s at the center of this film.
I still don’t know what’s going on by the end of this trailer but, man, I was entertained and that’s certainly more than enough. Success. [Twitch]
22nd Of May Trailer
I am having a hell of a time getting my hands on a copy of Day Night Day Night.
It is still one of my favorite trailers from 2006 insofar that it was an enjoyable piece of marketing that not only kept your understanding of what you’re watching completely obfuscated but it tapped into something visceral. We get that this woman is about to do something that’s not good, all signs point to suicide bombing, but it’s vague about what exactly is driving her or why she’s frantically running at the end of this thing but you’re absolutely keyed in to what’s happening on the screen. Enter this trailer and I get the same kind of vibe.
Directed by Koen Mortier, the trailer is a fantastic piece of artistic marketing. The idea of having a cohesive narrative isn’t a concern, at all, as you watch what happens from the outset. The music is downright haunting and the mood that’s evoked with a shot of a couple walking a baby buggy through what looks like a mini mall that’s currently being blasted by hurricane grade winds. The people that we meet through the lingering camera shots are creepy, everyone looks like they’re about to rob a bank. I don’t know why they all look guilty of something but before you try and figure it out the slo-mo, super huge explosions start.
Like The Hurt Locker, which artfully captured the impact waves that rip through the air after a serious explosion, an explosion here shows how it rips through a commercial structure. We see a man being tossed and rolled in the air, his expressionless face showing how quick the blast tears through space and time, while also getting a peek of a guy strapping enough plastic explosive to his waist to bring down a small building. The music continues to disturb as we see the blank faces of those who appear to be the ones perpetrating the violence.
I’m thrilled at the idea of not knowing what’s happening here and why random people are being shown in various states of squish, their scrunched faces saying it all. The cinematography is unique in that the scenes are not bathed in an obnoxious light or stylized to draw attention to itself in Michael Bay-ian flourish. It’s the chaos that reigns after the literal dust settles that brings it all home.
There are people who are on the receiving end of some yahoo’s vengeance, that much is clear, but this trailer ramps up the thrills slowly and with such a steady hand that it makes this one of the better films I know nothing about but yet want to see. [Twitch]
Red Nights Trailer
I just don’t know how I can explain this rationally without sounding bizarre: I like the idea of a woman being manufactured out of a soup of latex and water. I also endorse the idea of the creation of a woman whose sole objective is look like she’s ripped right out of the late 1960’s while on a mission to kill.
I don’t get why the idea of female assassins, lighting that embraces the more extreme hues of the color wheel, and the mystical arts seems like it would make a fabulous film but directors Julien Carbon and Laurent Courtiaud have a foot firmly planted on terra firma while the scope of this trailer escapes any kind of logic.
Additionally, I’m not sure how you would connect any dots here when you start with a woman emerging, essentially, from a wet, hermetically sealed body bag and with an alabaster white girl running around with weaponry but it is a feast for the eyes. With that aforementioned white girl traipsing about, sporting fashions from the Hermes spring collection, with a ruger and then a rifle tailor made for killing at long distances there is just something about me not giving a whit that we aren’t given anything substantial about this movie.
I do know that a woman is killed by feet, that another woman’s legs are bloodied by some Lee Press-On nails, Olivia Munn looks like she cameos, and we’re left with a woman looking straight into the camera almost giving a ringing product endorsement for getting shot. It’s all very unnatural but I can see where the allure is in a movie like this. It’s already a strange premise so I guess it’s better that we all just forget about creating any false pretense of a cohesive story.
For me, I would be thrilled to see why in the world this is all happening but the trailer strikes the right balance of keeping you off balance while tantalizing you with moments that utterly compel you to figure out what you have to do to see the rest. [Twitch]
Ninjas Vs. Vampires Trailer
This one screamed out to be included so I’m listening to that little voice in my appendix and doing just that.
A movie by Justin Timpane, I am pretty sure this trailer is probably the one thing that kept me coming back a few times. See, I can’t understand who was clamoring for a sequel to the international hit, 2008′s Ninjas Vs. Zombies, but there was a drive in this man to make it and I have no other recourse but to showcase this trailer and allow you, the teeming millions, to make sense of it for me.
I’m rendered speechless by what I see in this trailer but I do know I can’t believe what I’m seeing. Discuss.
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: