This Week in Trailers

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: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week, we spend some time with grandma, figure out the meaning of life, feel like someone is watching us, run away from it all, and then try to follow our dreams.

All Light, Everywhere

Director Theo Anthony is showing us what it’s like to be watched.

#AllLightEverywhere is an exploration of the shared histories of cameras, weapons, policing and justice. As surveillance technologies become a fixture in everyday life, the film interrogates the complexity of an objective point of view, probing the biases inherent in both human perception and the lens.

This documentary is trying to tell a different kind of narrative, but the trailer is unique in its approach. While not as transgressive as it could be, it’s still a fascinating mix of moments and pull quotes that offer assurance that there is something exciting here. The surveillance state is here, and this a necessary examination that is needed if only to have us think about what we’re now allowing into our lives.

Sweet Thing

Director Alexandre Rockwell has been around a while.

The story revolves around two siblings and their struggle to find solid ground in the homes of their alcoholic father and negligent mother. The children ultimately run away and find a temporary life for themselves.

Back in 1995, Rockwell’s contribution to the movie Four Rooms, with his segment called “The Wrong Man,” helped make that film one of those unique combinations of ambition meeting raw talent. Rockwell’s first directorial effort was back in 1982, and since then, he only has 12 credits to his name. Watching this trailer made me think he seems to be a creative talent who believes less is more. The trailer is a wild combination of sights, sounds, fonts, and formatting. It shouldn’t work as well as it does but when the format feels like no one is really innovating on selling their vision, here’s a little indie that wants to sell itself on its vibe alone. And it works.

I’m an Electric Lampshade

Director John Clayton Doyle is playing with us.

This documentary-narrative hybrid tells the story of DOUG McCORKLE, a buttoned- up, mild-mannered corporate accountant. After retiring at age 60, Doug puts his marriage and life savings on the line to chase his wildest dream.

I’m not really sure what’s happening here, but I’m not sure I need to know. To be honest, it’s interesting that the beginning puts us on firm, narrative ground. Seems pretty straightforward, with us being introduced to our working man who has dreams of being a star. That’s where things take an odd turn. It stops giving you any context and introduces a slew of different people, locations, and backgrounds. In sum, it becomes a kaleidoscope. And, just like a kaleidoscope, it doesn’t have to make sense. Just enjoy what you’re seeing and be mesmerized by it all.

Juniper

Director Matthew Saville is telling us something we already know.

When a self-destructive teenager is suspended from school and asked to look after his feisty alcoholic grandmother as a punishment, the crazy time they spend together turns his life around.

The story of an elderly family member who has some things to work out feels familiar, but Saville appears to be taking a fresh approach. I’m not thinking it’s novel or in any way groundbreaking, but I’m here for Charlotte Rampling, who looks to be chewing up the surrounding scenery. If I’m being honest, I’m also excited by the appearance of Marton Csokas, a wildly under-celebrated, amazing actor. Come for the melodrama, stay for the emotional trauma.

Scylos

Director Maaike Anne Stevens’ short looks remarkable.

Scylos is a meditation on the nature of classical logic, in which contradictory states cannot co-exist. The film is inspired by the life story of a character described in Herodotus’ Histories: the Scythian King Scylos, whose existence was split between his tribe of nomadic warriors and his civilised home in a Greek settler town. This double existence eventually led to his dramatic downfall. This contemplative film is composed from sequences shot in a small desert village on the edge of the Sahara in southeastern Morocco and at the IODP Bremen Core Repository, where thousands of deep-sea mud cores from all over the world are stored, sampled and analysed by scientists, who try to explain cycles of extinction and bloom in the history of the planet. In a mud core the whole of humanity is reduced to a speck of dust, and yet within each particle the cycle of birth, life and death is present.

I mean, just read that above description. I’ve seen fewer words spilled for movies that could have used an intermission much less a short that clocks in at 22 minutes. Still, when you’re trying to sell a meditation on life itself and you’re using core samples as a visual hook to bring it all together, your trailer better be on point. Luckily for this story, it is. There is nothing at all in this trailer that even hints at a narrative, but what we do get is arresting moments that pique our curiosity. It’s like a puzzle: how do all these pieces fit together. Alas, it ends too soon to figure anything out but we’re now feeling pulled into what it’s trying to say.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion 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 or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

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

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