Posted on Friday, May 20th, 2011 by Christopher Stipp
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 Island Trailer
I don’t often kick off things with a suggestion from the peanut gallery but when someone sends you a tip that has Alejandro Jodorowsky in a film that looks all kinds of strange and interesting you have to give it your full attention.
Considering that I don’t know much more about director Kamen Kalev other than he won all kinds of accolades for his previous work, Eastern Plays, this film, looks like it has similar aspirations for positive critical attention. As it stands, it’s playing at this year’s Cannes Film Festival and it’s is a good place to find opinions of all kinds. Whether or not it’s any good is irrelevant as the trailer before you has the markings of a delicious thriller.
The basics of this movie, that you have two rubes on a lovely holiday on some remote island where fornication is at the top of the To Do/Who To Do list, are fairly benign and you almost would be forgiven if you sped ahead to about the minute mark of this thing. It’s all setup up until then but there are some choice nuggets that might prove to be important later on. However, the initial presentation of information helps to establish a place, a feeling of who these people are, and the insane things that start happening to these lovebirds.
The proverbial wheels really come off and I couldn’t enjoy the weirdness any more than I do once these kids are surrounded by water on a this tiny rock. You have strange people peeping on our couple, our main man discovers a dead body floating in the water, there’s a well communicated style of disorientation as our protagonists lose their minds in a landlocked spot right out of Deliverance with the kind of crazies that seem to call this island home, and I’m amazed at the brevity of it all.
The fun continues with a side story that devolves into a literal game show. We’re not given any context as clips of our man who seems to be hiding a piece of himself, some part of his past that is intertwined with all of this, is the one who ends up melting around the edges as the rural, pastoral thrill ride turns into something I would have seen out of The Running Man but without the lovely tanned visage of Richard Dawson leading the charge.
No, instead it’s Jodorowsky who is creeping me out with what he’s laying down. It’s way too surreal to even try and make sense out of in a two minute trailer but I love the promise of what this film might be and I can’t wait if it’s every bit as dense as it’s making itself out to be. [Operation Kino]
Viva Riva! Trailer
The director Djo Tunda wa Munga won six African Movie Academy Awards this year for this film and I am willing to bet dollars to donuts that no one here has ever heard of it. Even if you have I’m surprised no one is talking about this film more simply based on this trailer.
At first it seems like it’s something that Ridley Scott would have made a decade ago but there’s something else going on here. We see a story about gas, one of the most innocuous elements about which to wrap a film around, but Djo makes this exciting. He makes it seem like there’s an electricity around a city that is jonesing for some petrol and it’s conveyed succinctly and perfectly. We’ve got a helpless populace and some thugs who are cornering a market that needs liberation. Who is that man that will break through all of this? It’s Riva, of course.
The do-rag festooned melon of Riva enters the picture and he is made out to be all kinds of slick. People dig him, his mom loves him, and women are afraid of the heat he’s bringing, sort of speak. He’s the cat who is the centerpiece of this film and while even though he kind of comes off as a second rate Dos Equis spokesman with the panache and confidence he exudes, the most interesting man with the plan, there is something there. If you can just get by the cheesy talk about the woman at the center of his desires “But what Riva wants most…belongs to another man”, as it just sells this story short on both an originality and dramatic level, I promise you it gets a lot better.
The last fifty seconds, however, are just exquisite.
We actually get a better, more well rounded picture of who Riva is as a character and it helps to see that this guy isn’t invulnerable. He’s very much in the mix and in it hip deep so as the music swells and crescendos we aren’t allowed to get a good grasp on the story as we are able to get a feel for how the story is going to look. Appearance wise, this has everything going for it. Additionally, this looks like a movie where our hero may not be entirely honest and upstanding. I like my protagonists to have some flaws and it looks like Riva has it in spades. Throw that into the mix with its critical pedigree and you have one film that is on my Must See list just to witness how this guy can go from cad to hero.
This is all I get?
I love being teased like this, no matter how maddening it makes me. After being left completely riled up by what I saw I just had to find a synopsis, something to help put things into context. What I got was one sentence:
MICHAEL describes the last five months of 10-year-old Wolfgang and 35-year-old Michael’s involuntary life together.
I’m not sure what in the world this could mean but the teaser here is riveting. Director Nikolaus Geyrhalter has made a movie that may very well be as understated as what you see here and for anyone who thinks it’s too understated and not giving enough for you to form an opinion on whether you’re going to see it you’re missing the point, I think.
What this teaser trailer does is show a definitive difference between between exploitation and restraint. Where we would usually find our collective ears consumed with the screaming from some young fraulein begging for sweet release of whatever prison she’s being held in there is a feeling that the editors here are going about as far as you can in the other direction to not give you anything you want.
We get some boring street, in some boring town, where some nebbish is quietly coming home to an empty nest. It’s only as the guy jiggles the handle to the basement and we see sound dampening foam on the door and the security shades slowly roll down over the window when the skeeve factor, the hairs on the back of your neck, rise. The way the moment just plays itself out is a delight in the way it subverts expectations for a movie like this. It’s telling without showing. It’s David Mamet for the psychologically ill.
This guy is obviously an army of one yet we see him making a meal for three, the other two “guests” at the dinner table where he’s setting up a lovely dinner aren’t ever shown, and the implications for why he’s doing this or who he even has in his dungeon aren’t divulged. When he does open the latch to his human cage and he beckons for his prisoner to come out I half expect a wildebeest to come lunging out in shackles and iron chains. The way we sort of just linger here for a moment without seeing a thing is all the uneasiness I need to convince me that I simply have to see this movie. Variety seems to agree as well.
Angels of Evil Trailer
Look, I can’t say I know any work by Italian director Michele Placido but this sunk its hooks in me. Besides being fascinated with reading about the real life mayhem that nasty roustabout Renato Vallanzasca was up to in Milan this guy is a real trip. To say nothing of the eleven people who are given writing credit on this film, one of which is the actual man in question who wrote a book on himself, there is no doubt that there are a lot of fingers inside this pie. Whether or not this will cause the movie to feel like a film done by committee is anyone’s guess but the trailer is a little bit of fun.
There are hints of Carlos and Mesrine, two movies which I really enjoyed for how they played with this kind of real life material, and they seem to be using that playbook to showcase a story that has multiple narratives running through it. The trailer is lean and doesn’t do much more than exploit the style of the film in all its Italian sexiness. The bloomers that slowly slide off one of the ladies is a good indication on what’s being sold here and even though that is a pretty big red flag in my estimation for any kind of commercial product (apply this to body spray, toothpaste, floor wax, if you want) that needs to use the hint of sexuality in order to get your buy in. Literally. I like the passion but am afraid that what I’m really here for is the gun play, the intrigue, and instead I’m treated to the Red Shoe Diaries of some guy who looks like he just came off a Dolce & Gabbana photo shoot.
But the music and tempo are perfect. The opening shot establishes why we’re here and why we ought to care about these people but that’s not much to go on as these thieves seem like hedonistic thugs who deserve everything that looks to be coming to them. That’s the other thing that gets me about this trailer as well: you kind of hope these people end up bloodied on the side of the street by the end of it. Nothing endears us to these characters and the trailer is selling a rock star who has no compunction about what is coming his way. And that’s fine, because what we’re being tempted with is a story that is going to look at this merry band of criminals and what will eventually be their downfall. No happy/cheeky Oceans 11 ending here. Looks like it’ll be bloody.
Catatan Si Boy Trailer
This looks, roughly, about eight metric tons better than the stillborn abomination known as Fast Five.
I had such a miserable time that the preposterous nature of the film was finally confirmed by proxy through the comments made by Jeff Cannata of The Totally Rad Show on last week’s /Filmcast. What I felt was missing, and why anyone else hasn’t really brought this issue up is beyond me, was actual cars racing around. Five felt like a heist movie crafted by apes who had only a tangential grasp of makes a good story and without any zoom zoom zipping of cars careening down the congested streets of Rio this was a disappointment. So, like a friend who shows up at just the right time this movie just thrilled me.
The first thirty seconds are pure electricity. From the thick block letters laying it all out with a sweet bass line that is something out of an old school Bond film, souped up with an infectious hook, to the quick snapshots of the film there is no denying there is something here. Regardless of whether the movie is any good I was gobsmacked at how razor sharp this looks. And looks are everything especially when you don’t know what language everyone is using but who cares because this looks like the film I didn’t get weeks ago.
I don’t know the plot, I don’t know the characters, but I find myself wanting to know more. Apart from the actual car racing there seems to be a human element that looks about as deep as anything you would get out of Hollywood but I could care less. At least they want to sell the fact that it’s in there. It’s not a hindrance that there aren’t subtitles, it’s an enticement. This trailer gets me giddy every time I watch it because there’s a confident swagger here and it’s the kind of advertisement for a movie that you weren’t expecting to like moments you pushed play. It’s just inspiring to see something brimming with enough visual delights that it’s hard to see where you could possibly go wrong by giving it a chance.
By far, one of my favorite trailers that I’ve seen all month and I hope director Putrama Tuta is able to deliver on what’s here. I’m downright giddy. [Twitch]
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:
- Fright Night Trailer - Am I the only one who thinks this could be worth a buck or two at the dollar theater? I might be but the trailer, from a purely advertising standpoint, is great in its execution.
- Straw Dogs Trailer - Consider me a fan of this. Hop was deplorable but I’m still a fan of James Marsden and I think this could be all kinds of fun. Trailer is a mix of same old same old with a hint of creativity.
- Alcatraz Trailer - The trailer doesn’t do a good job in convincing me that the preponderance of high concept plot points I’m going to have to believe is anywhere near plausible. Even for the guy who wanted to believe Airwolf really existed.
- Terra Nova Trailer - Hmm, Avatar meets Jurrasic Park meets Aliens meets…take your pick. Not really moved by this.
- Napoleon Dynamite Trailer - Everyone’s back! (Not that anyone’s surprised or that it could have been that difficult to get the band back together) I don’t know if this series is something to be feared or embraced. The trailer makes me at least willing to TiVo it and find out.
- The Adventures Of Tintin Trailer - If I want creepy animation I’ll watch Polar Express again. The technology just isn’t there to make me think this is anything less than sub par animation. You can just feel the hesitation in wanting to show you our titular character in all his uncanny valley-ness.
- The Zookeeper Trailer - Awful trailer. It’s cookie cutter, it’s uninsipred and it’s going to play well with anyone who thought King of Queens represented the zenith of televised comedy. And, gee, I’ve never seen that whole “schlubby fat guy going after the hot supermodel who he could never have in real life but can because some weasel hammered it out on a typewriter” gag before. Real novel.
- Charlie’s Angels Trailer - Seriously? This looks all kinds of miserable. They obviously couldn’t even be bothered with making an exciting trailer so why should I care? Answer, I don’t.
- Grim Trailer - It looks like something that could play well on basic cable, not broadcast television. Any teeth it could have had would have been filed down by suits who need this thing to be profitable, not exciting.
- The Playboy Club Trailer - See the above comment.
- Awake Trailer - Well, I wasn’t expecting that. I am pretty interested in seeing more about this series. Count me in simply based on someone taking the time to make a trailer that is at once thought provoking but grounded in a tangible reality.
- Good Neighbors Trailer - Looks like a movie I could enjoy once at home from Redbox or Netflix. Full price admission? Not a chance.