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Evolution of the Trailer by

December 3rd, 2007 Leave a comment Go to comments

One thing which has always caught my interest is the film trailer– a minute-long montage meant to capture the entirety of a film in order to get the audience to want to see it. There are a lot of ways of doing this, with most current films going to the default option. I speak, of course, of the form used by every action movie; man with deep voice explains concept briefly while the screen is black, sudden action shot to “surprise” you (an explosion, if possible), a few random, out-of-context action shots more, and then the date the movie will be released. Sometimes this is done well, and sometimes this is done badly. Of course, there’s a variant which is actually quite similar for the quirky romantic comedy– light music, with the sound to a scene starting early while the title or name of a star shows on the screen, a few lighthearted scenes are shown, etc.

Really what I’m getting at is that there are some trailers which are made well, and some which are made horribly. I’d always loved the idea that one day there would be a trailer which completely misled the audience about the nature of the movie– a trailer which showed a happy film where the film was a slasher pic, or something of that nature. This has been done to some degree by the false trailers made by amateurs for youtube, some of which are brilliant– for example, Brokeback to the Future

On the other hand, the trailer for Federico Fellini’s “Notti di Cabiria (Nights of Cabiria)” has the same effect in a real trailer.

The real film, of course, is basically about how an aging prostitute is screwed over by the world, left destitute and alone, etc. I realize that the trailer indicates that this was for a translated re-release, but I am pretty sure that a similar trailer was used for the original release of the film. Many of the scenes shown are taken out of context in a way which makes them appear much happier than they are.

On the other hand, there are some trailers which completely reject any sort of encapsulation of the plot– this trailer, for Ermanno Olmi’s 1961 satire “Il Posto (“The Position” or “The Job”)” just tries to get the aesthetic of the film across, over some nice jazz. I don’t know how successful it is, especially with the break in the middle for the dance scene, but it’s still nice–

maybe I only like this one because I love the film, though.

For a more modern, commercial, less art-house example, the first trailer for “Superman Returns” was utterly beautiful. Without really showing any plot points from the film, or even hinting at the plot, the trailer slowly builds up to the final reveal of Superman’s face, followed of course by the “S”. The trailer brings out the concept of Superman without revealing any elements of the plot, which is perfect for a character so archetypal, as well as one so deeply seated in the American psyche. Of course, the timing of the film helps– perhaps the first time since the Cold War where Americans have felt the need for a hero like Superman, unlike the anti-heroic Batman of the 90′s Tim Burton films. Maybe it’s just a lifetime of loving Superman, but this one gives me chills every time. The understatedness only makes it more effective.

On a completely different tack, I love the trailer for “American Hardcore.” It seemed pretty ironic that a film about hardcore was so long, and had so little momentum. The trailer captured everything I needed to know from the film as far as I’m concerned– the film itself was more like a 20-minute Bonham drum solo than anything you’d hear at a punk show. I love hardcore punk because it’s fast and energetic, and that’s what I love about this trailer.

Well anyway, that’s all I have to say for now, but maybe some day I’ll bring up some more. I love well-made ads in general, so it’s very likely I’ll post something about this in the future.

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