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?

Carancho Trailer

Ricardo Darin gets a pass from me simply because of The Secret in Their Eyes. A taut thriller that didn’t relent, that film was deserving of the accolades it received and I only wish it was seen by more people. Carancho looks like it’s going to deliver simply based on the trailer but, again, it’s Darin who seems to carry the heft of the weight in this thing and here’s to hoping second time’s a charm for people to see how this guy can work.

What’s here in this trailer, mind you, is a collection of moments that don’t really seem to make much sense but the opening is about as much information as you’ll need, or get, to carry you through the end. Besides the obligatory Cannes declaration, the way it touts its inclusion into that festival, the initial interstitial simply tells us that this is probably going to be about crooked lawyers. A trope we’ve seen before many times over thanks to the milquetoast musings of John Grisham, this story seems to be infused with a little something special, something unique. It does not disappoint.

The trailer juxtaposes Darin, who gets his face used as a human meat tenderizer at every turn, against a quite weary doctor just trying to eek out an existence of helping those who come into her ER. Of course, the doctor is all kinds of hot and Darin is a man who lets his mouth do the talking and is not above paying a visit to the bald man in the canoe, a couple of times actually, with this lady but what’s interesting here besides how fast we move from niceties to cunnilingus is that we aren’t given any structure whatsoever. He’s crooked, she’s smokin’, he’s packing heat, she looks caught in his world and gets getting roughed up because of it, and he gets all kinds of angry.

At about the minute, forty second mark he barges in an office and smacks some guy with a metal drawer. It’s pretty exciting, actually, and the music is perfectly situated behind the breakdown of events that happen all around them. The actual structure of this trailer is one of a gently sloping hill that careens downward with no stop until the very end.

Director Pablo Trapero, who is probably best known in these parts for his excellent film Lion’s Den, looks like he’s bringing the same kind of marriage between violence and humanity together in one package and this trailer mixes together these ideas in a way that is both maddening, loving, and awesomely sexual.

Ride, Rise, Roar Trailer

If you ask me, if you’re going to choreograph “Burning Down the House” on stage at least some part has to incorporate the fireball. You can’t have House without the fireball and that’s all there is to it.

When you think of musicians who no longer really consider themselves as such, people who have instead taken on world hunger or dedicated themselves to championing bean curd as the food staple which will bring peace to the Mideast, those paragons of peace who while the day away based on any whim they have I usually think of Peter Gabriel and David Byrne. Both these gentleman are probably really fun to have at parties but I miss when they were making music that mattered. This trailer, though, gives me hope there’s some life to Byrne and his brilliance.

First time documentary filmmaker Hillman Curtis looks like he has an eye for what would make an interesting film about a guy many have heard of and would want to experience in a whole new way. And, let’s be honest, Byrne has been in the documentary game for over a quarter of a century, Stop Making Sense being the standout, but what makes this interesting is that here again is the man who is not shy in front of the camera and looks like he could still have something interesting to say with his art.

Watching dancers move fluidly as they rehearse in black and white, blasting on stage when it all goes to color, you can sense what they’re going for here. We’re not pushed into this world like the trailer for Stop Making Sense did but, rather, it takes a step back and shows you the mechanics of how it all evolves. It’s the construction, a very tiny peek at it, that we’re given and it’s appreciated.

There’s a lackadaisical vibe Byrne gives off as he moves about on the stage and off. He’s talking directly to us while even laughingly acknowledging that this might be perceived as a bit extreme or weird. I like that. I genuinely liked this trailer at this point because if he is honest enough with himself to say that everything he does might not be perceived as Godly then it’s about time I gave something like this a chance. He’s asking for a chance to see what you think and for that I have to say I would and will.

Poetry Trailer

Lee Chang-dong has a knack for making films that try and make sense of the profundity humans are capable of. Secret Sunshine, a movie about a woman coping from deep loss, was one of those stories where it could be easy to stray into the maudlin or susceptible to acts of hysterics from its leading woman, but it doesn’t and is a beautiful film because of it.

Poetry is poised like a speed skater at the line right before a medal final, ready to do it all again with the very same pitfalls before it. Here, in this trailer, we meet a sweet older woman who looks like she lives a very simple existence. There’s nothing extraordinary about the half minute we spend getting to know her but the score is delightful, the imagery is effective, and the doling out of information is slow and meticulous. It’s tightly structured but it seems so is this woman.

Only a brain dead idiot wouldn’t get that our protagonist is suffering from Alzheimer’s before we actually hear it but that’s just incidental to what we see going on here. As we see that this film has won a few accolades, one for Best Screenplay at Cannes, it gingerly glides back and forth with the daily struggle this woman has. There is a quiet preciousness in watching this woman simply roll through life as her brain begins to fail her and the way she tries to keep it all together.

The subplot of her finding herself in a classroom setting in order to write poetry obviously adds to the sadness of trying to find beauty in a world that seems to look more foreign to her with each passing day. Sometimes it’s not the level of skill displayed in how well a trailer is constructed that gets me excited but, rather, sometimes it’s how emotionally resonant someone can get within two minutes and this one does.

Like Away From Her, this movie looks like it could be yet another story that can deal with a subject too many people want to try and avoid by humanizing the experience. Break out the tissues!

Miss Representation Trailer

As a father of three girls I hope all of them have enough self-awareness to realize that the assault of imagery by the media through television shows, pop idols, films, ad campaigns, et al., was nothing if not personal. The shocking number of body dysmorphic disorders that women have thanks to pigs like me who like to see their women all dolled up and heels pales in comparison to the work that needs to be done to improve the overall self-esteem of our sisters, our fellow humans. This trailer, from director Jennifer Siebel Newsom who up until recently was, and still is, an actress as well as a documentary filmmaker, brims with the kind of shame only the truth can bring.

As you get a taste of what this documentary has to offer in terms of talking heads, salient points, interesting takes on subjects we’re all familiar with, you quickly get that men, in fact, are genuine swine and we’re willing to disparage an entire class of people in derogatory manner just because they don’t mind if we do. From video clips from shows, music videos where women cannibalize their own dignity even though they call it “self-empowerment”, political punditry programs where the name of the game is defiling your enemy by pointing out her physical flaws, and to girls who really want to speak their mind about what they are seeing it’s a frenetic first minute. The trailer defines the cult of the body politic whereby we see nothing wrong with pointing out some woman looks wretched while no one is about to harangue Charlie Rangel about why he isn’t hitting the StairMaster a little harder or why Barney Frank needs to lay off the saturated fats. It’s very effective.

Now, I will say that I do take a little umbrage with the people being interviewed, Lisa Ling and Jane Fonda being just two, as we see them seated before us. For a pair of yapping yentas talking about the struggle of women it’s odd to me that they would embrace the practice of caking on the makeup as heavily as they do. I don’t know where feminists stand on the practice of eyeliner or heavy rouge but it’s just odd to see a trailer about female empowerment with women who would just as well conform to the patriarchal norms that were established to keep them looking pretty for completely superficial reasons. Just an observation.

While I think there are some brilliant points raised by a lot of women looking at the field of others around them looking for some parity I think the message becomes too broad as we head in for the hard close. The message almost seems too esoteric and loses a bit of the steam it created before trying to wrap their arms the whole issue. It’s just too much and the trailer ultimately collapses, for me, because of it. In instances where you are trying to define a population it would have better suited this preview to focus on a small detail that is representative of the whole but, unfortunately, it tried to fit itself in a pair of skinny jeans when, in fact, this is one heifer in need of some exercise.

The message is that exercise so I’m at least hopeful about the prospect of having a film I could be proud to show my three daughters.

***And now with English subtitles! Thanks to the fine people at Strand Releasing for passing it along.***

Falco – Verdammt, wir leben noch! (Falco: Damn It, We’re Still Alive!) Trailer

I apologize if you’ll have this song ricocheting in your head for the rest of the day.

Odd thing when it comes to foreign films: Americans are like the uptight nerds in the car from that AT&T commercial. We seem to get everything late. Sure, there are some day and date releases here and there but, for the most part, anything unique or slightly different always results in a lag and, in this case, it’s a whole lotta late. Since not a lot of you hail from Austria, Germany, or the Czech Republic circa 2008 I can go forward safely in assuming many reading this haven’t heard of this film. For those fortunate enough to be blessed with distributors like Strand Releasing in the United States this oversight is about to be corrected.

While I can’t understand any words whatsoever, none of the romance languages are even represented so I can’t even come close to figuring out a single syllable, Austrian filmmaker Thomas Roth looks like he’s taking a page out of the Walk The Line handbook for interesting looking bio pics by infusing some jingle jangle into his presentation deck and I dig it. I can get, just by watching this, that Johann (Falco) Hölzel was on the Milli Vanilli skyward trajectory and I couldn’t be more stoked.

From the whorin’, the lyin’, the cheatin’, the lovin’, the success, it all appeals to my more base instincts as a filmgoer. This may not be Johnny Cash but this trailer just hums with electricity. I have no question that if I knew what these Austrians were saying I would love this even more but seeing him beat on his old lady in one of the most melodramatic moments I think I’ve ever seen in a trailer and seeing that same woman yell something like “Frankfurter!” as she tears their newborn baby away from Falco’s loving arms I am filled with sadness. Sadness for a man who left this earth way too soon as the final moments allude to this cultural icon’s ultimate demise.

How can you not rock back and forth a little as “Der Kommissar” blasts through your speakers? Answer: it’s impossible.

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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