Monday, December 23, 2013

The Trailer Feeling

I know a number of people who do their best to avoid movie trailers. It's an understandable goal in that one, trailers can falsely advertise a film by making it look like something it isn't, two, they give you real footage, and thus make the actual cinematic experience a little less fresh, and three, they can, and often do, give away crucial elements of the movie. I won't argue these points, and I applaud anyone who can actually stay away from attractive advertisements. But I love trailers, at least the good ones. A good trailer, one that's well cut, slightly revealing but ultimately ambiguous, that has the perfect images and some really good music, is often a wonderful thing. If there's an anticipated movie that's a ways off and an amazing trailer comes out for it, it paradoxically makes the wait a little more painful and a little more bearable. If it does a good job of selling the movie, of teasing its qualities, one can only get more impatient for its eventual release. But at the same time, a good trailer can also serve as a kind of antidote for the waiting. It gives you something to chew on while the main course is cooking, so to speak.

While one can talk about trailers in terms of their craft, even going so far as to call them pieces of art on their own, or mini-movies, to me their main appeal is on an emotional level. Because trailers cannot really tell stories or provide any sort of intellectual satisfaction, and because the form of the movie itself ultimately means much more than that of the trailer, then the best it can do is to make you feel something. That's why trailer music is such a big deal, and why often a single memorable track from a movie can find its way into countless trailers (i.e Hans Zimmer's Thin Red Line piece, which showed up most recently in that new X-Men trailer-it wanted to have the feel of something both massive and important, and I'd say precisely because of that accompanying music, it kind of does). What's to love about trailers is that they're often incredibly manipulative, and yet not only do they have the right to be, but they're kind of supposed to be. Their chief job is to make you want to see the film based on what you feel from those few minutes. 

 Then there is the idea of a really excellent trailer that creates an aura of its own with its arrangement of music and images that, in a certain way, exceeds the actual film. That's not to say the trailer is advertising something that seems to be great when the final product actually isn't. I'm talking about the precise mood of the trailer and how that mood can create expectations that are not fulfilled in the film itself (other moods certainly can come about, yet not that initial one from the trailer). There can be a twinge of disappointment when that mood captured from that great trailer doesn't really come about in the film. Often it can just be the matter of the trailer music not showing up in movie. It's a completely irrational reason to be disappointed because it is centered purely on emotion, and yet I feel it does sometimes happen. 

To segue, then, to the real purpose of this post, which is that sometimes the mood of the great trailer is fulfilled in the film. Again, this is also irrational and mood-based, yet it's ever-so satisfying. And it too is usually based on the mood of the trailer brought about by its music. A great example of this is The Place Beyond the Pines, Derek Cianfrance's fantastic crime drama from earlier this year. The trailer for the film was perfect. All the right lines of dialogue were chosen, and songs for the trailer (Suicide's Che and composer Mike Patton's Snow Angel) perfectly encapsulated both the film's independent spirit and its portentous ambitions. It was one of my favorite trailers to watch this year because, besides the external factors of Cianfrance being a director I like, and the story sounding interesting, it made me feel what I believe Cianfrance wanted me to. I say this because the film itself gave me the exact same feeling that the trailer provided, only on a much larger scale. And it certainly helped that Che and Snow Angel were both included in the official soundtrack. What is the point of this all? Well, it's essentially to say that trailers like A Place Beyond the Pines are the reason I love trailers. When the mood of the trailer translates to the finished film, that initial excitement felt in the advertisement is enhanced because the finished product is just so much larger. And yet, if you have a few spare minutes and you want to get a sense of the emotional pull of the movie, going back to revisit the trailer can be a wonderful thing. 

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