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?


Corman’s World: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel Trailer

If there ever was a team-up I know I’ll never be able to see it would be a movie made by both Roger Corman and Lloyd Kaufman. The two are kindred spirits but, at the very least, this trailer explores the method behind the madness as it pertains to Corman and I’ll take what I can get.

Opening up with some of the more bombastic moments from Corman’s oeuvre, and before we even hit the 25 second mark we have cameos from Jack Nicholson, Ron Howard, Tom Hanks, Peter Fonda, and Peter Bogdanvich. The man was indeed, and still is, legendary so how best to sell a movie about a filmmaker than with the players who he’s come into contact with over the years in order to get Ma and Pa Kettle up to speed on his story. The interspersing of talking heads with some nutty clips help conjoin the narrative in a meaningful way.

The amusing thing is that this trailer becomes a Corman movie in and of itself. The number of people, Robert DeNiro being one of them, who wax wistfully when reflecting on the moments they had with the man fit right in with the gonzo manner in which we’re exposed to his film clips. We’ve got punk rock music grafted on disjointed moments of movies that offer no explanation other than this is the reality of Roger. This world is of his own making and it shows.

The trailer does well by focusing on the real DIY manner in which Corman shot his films while keeping it rather high level when it comes to delving into the experiences some of these A-listers had when working with him. Some might prefer it take a more measured approach but it just wouldn’t keep with the man’s aesthetic and filmmaker Alex Stapleton does it the right way; it retains that sense of other worldliness that makes this look like a must-see this fall.

Aurora Trailer

Shh, he’s hunting human rabbits.

It’s always nice to stumble on a movie you never heard of before, from a country you can’t place, and then experience a trailer that grabs your attention, and satisfies completely. Award winning director Cristi Pulu appears to have made a film that delves into motiveless murder while keeping things looking gorgeous.

At first you’re not quite sure what this movie is, and believe me, I don’t fault you for thinking this seems like a meditation on the loneliness of a blue collar man who lives alone. I would’ve punched out early too but there’s something there. It’s something intangible. Something feels dark, feels dangerous, and there’s an air of criminality that hangs heavy before we hit the fifty second mark. Before you can tell whether our man Flynn is involved in thieving of some kind or if he’s just an inept cat burglar, the gun goes off. Literally. It’s an interesting shot, literally, as it’s not up close or particularly framed squarely. It’s an awkward angle and it’s fantastic. The squirts of sparks and the flash is what gets the most kudos from me.

The tick tick tick of a turn signal and the on-point pull-quotes gives this trailer traction. An extended moment alone with the man, the thrilling kill he makes in the parking garage which is filmed in the same manner as the previous one we just saw, the quiet time we get with him on the couch, it’s a wonder that these moments work so well with one another.

As it is, though, with no clear motive to point to, this trailer makes it out that this movie is going to be a small puzzle to put together and as it pertains to a serial killer I couldn’t be more interested.

House of Pleasures Trailer

“I love prostitutes. I find them wonderful.”

Now how can you go wrong with a trailer that starts with establishes its pedigree as playing at Cannes and TIFF and includes a line like you see above?

Director Bertrand Bonello’s ode to a dying whorehouse seems more sensual than it does sexual, more poignant than it is titillating, and I like the tempo it establishes as we get our bearings about what we’re doing here. Many of us have an antennae attenuated to self-indulgent navel gazing and art for art’s sake but this is something of a slow, hot burn. It pulls you in with its focus on the sadness of a thing, a place coming to its end.

We’re introduced to a 16 year-old ho-in-training, coming up through the farm system, and it is our first look into this sultry house of mirth. The conversation that this girl has with the head whore is philosophical yet poignant. I can’t say for sure whether it’s the waning days of this human amusement park that makes this an attractive selection or if it’s the lack of focus on any one character but there’s something about drifting in and out of various moments without context that get to me.

The use of an R&B standard that is completely out of temporal possibility is not really jarring as it is perfectly selected to suit what it is that’s happening here in this trailer. It’s all very fin de siècle and I like that what we have is the bridging of what once was and what will be. How that will turn out is anyone’s guess but this does feel a little classy without it ever seeming too Red Shoe Diaries. Bonello does a nice job with mixing the sadness that must weigh down some of the story with the vivre avec son époque feeling that will hopefully inform the joy that these women feel as well.

Here’s to hoping.

Garbo: The Spy Trailer

This is one of those stories that I can keep coming back to again and again.

I’m not sure how intense the feeling was that Nazi Germany was going to overtake the world but through some of the footage and b-roll that we get here I would have to assume that more than one person thought the swastika bearing armies of Adolf Hitler were poised to do just that. The trailer does an excellent job with at least establishing that fear, that fervor of something must be done.

So, instead of just getting down to why we’re all here, director Edmon Roch goes a different route. We focus on history, on the time itself and what was afoot, what was confronting the people of Europe. There was a genuine sense of fear that was rolling through the hearts and minds of those sympathetic to the allied cause. This trailer just keeps us grounded in this time and does not relent.

You would think that with a title that calls out the specific spy in question who, ostensibly, does something wild and daring and completely dangerous would be the focus but, we never hear about him. We get told, damn near the end of this thing, that he was a Spanish spy and that there was some kind of deception involved that ultimately helped the war effort in our favor but we’re denied any look into what that actually was. I’m stupefied that this is the marketing angle but, you know what, it works.

Getting past the whole cheese ball interstitial that Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction and the bombastic soundtrack  that even would make Hans Zimmer blush, there’s a genuine mystery in knowing who this individual is and what they did. We certainly have a feel for the time and the place but the war footage and the tempo and only the vaguest hints of what we’re even talking about was enough to get me wondering what in the hell is going on and can I know more, please.

I like intrigue and if you’re going to completely c-block me this is at least the right way to go about it.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles Trailer

Yup. it’s that time of the year.

Once every twelve months I dust this thing off and watch it with the family. Thanksgiving doesn’t really get better than this as it pertains to films, yeah yeah Home for the Holidays blah blah blah, but it’s always nice to reflect back on the marketing efforts that the studio put in for a gem like this. It ultimately feels like we’ve come a long way in marketing films since the salad days of 1987 but with next year marking the 25th anniversary of this movie’s release I hope you all pour a little 40 oz on the lawn in memory of cinema’s greatest salesman next to Willie Loman, Del Griffith.

The fact that this trailer ends with one of the best laughs of the movie was marketing genius, as well as including some moments which obviously never made it into the film. Isn’t that always the way…

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

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

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