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 try to solve a mystery, talk with some aging Nazi accomplices, discuss what it means to be a man, and get literary.
Director Robert Connolly might not be a household name in America, but his latest looks like it allows Eric Bana’s talent to shine brightly.
Opening in theaters and VOD May 21. Based on the global bestseller by Jane Harper, a federal agent’s (Eric Bana) homecoming leads to a deeply personal murder investigation that reopens old wounds and threatens to unravel the tight-knit small town.
To say that this narrative is unique would be patently false. It seems all too familiar: a death brings someone back to their hometown, there’s history for that person in that town, there’s a secret shared between that person and others, and it’s all usually very rote. However, this one feels fresh, and Bana is bringing the thunder with what we’re given here. He’s working his skills quietly, no need for melodrama, and it’s wildly effective. There’s something simmering beneath everything we see and, of course, it will all come to a head somewhere down the line. It’s great to see movies that still want to dabble in this kind of space, and even though it feels familiar, it all plays like visual comfort food.
Director Luke Holland is talking to accomplices of Nazis.
FINAL ACCOUNT is an urgent portrait of the last living generation of everyday people to participate in Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. Over a decade in the making, the film raises vital, timely questions about authority, conformity, complicity and perpetration, national identity, and responsibility, as men and women ranging from former SS members to civilians in never-before-seen interviews reckon with – in very different ways – their memories, perceptions and personal appraisals of their own roles in the greatest human crimes in history. In theaters May 21st, 2021.
The subject here is so rich, so emotionally affecting, that I am at a loss to figure out how it’s possible to have a horrifically slapped-together trailer to sell this story. At issue here is the completely unnecessary voiceover that starts this trailer off and, horrifically, strikes a disturbingly odd tone. It’s not doing the work it thinks it is. Perhaps more egregious is its use of on-screen pull-quotes. When used sparingly, it can help elevate a movie’s prestige. Unfortunately, the focus here seemed to be that it wanted to stuff as many quotes on the screen as possible. The net effect is that it takes away from what looks like an amazingly well-done and gripping documentary. Exploring what it means to passively, or actively, take part in a war and facilitate a holocaust is, at the very least, admirable. And this documentary deserves a better trailer.
Truman & Tennessee
Director Immordino Vreeland showcases two literary powerhouses.
A story of two of the greatest writers of the past century examined in a dialogue that stretches from their early days of friendship to their final, unsparing critiques of each other.
This is a story I’ve never heard before. When authors create works of fiction or non-fiction, our first duty is to judge the merit of the work itself. It should be able to stand on its own. Digging into the personal lives, thoughts, desires, and conflicts of these artists, while showing the external forces that influenced their work, is fascinating. This is content ripe for academia or broader discussion groups. This trailer captures all of that. There is a mix of the very public interviews of both Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams while also inter-cutting more personal details of these writers’ lives in a way that helps inform, however slight, it influenced their writing. It feels like an expose, an exploration of something very personal, but, also, acting as something like a companion piece to understanding who they were outside of their writing.
When it comes to being a man, director Jesse McCracken has something to say about that.
Toronto filmmaker Jesse McCracken grew up in rural Ontario with two very different images of masculinity: one embodied by his father, a brash, hardworking and hard-living member of the motorcycle crew Redneck Riders; the other, his soft-spoken, community-oriented maternal grandfather. When his parents divorce and his mother leaves, Jesse returns to investigate his feelings of nostalgia for both his family and his hometown. The small town of Markdale has changed, no longer a thriving place but now a sleepy bedroom community for Toronto commuters. Jesse’s own family, too, is undergoing a transition, one that Jesse’s voice-over tries to make sense of. The question he poses—”What makes a good man?”—is answered very differently by both father and grandfather. Beautifully shot in black and white, this sensitive film debates what’s lost and gained in this dual portrait of a changing family and town.
In a cinematic landscape filled with so much content vying for your time, this documentary feels vital. There is something to be said about listening to the swan songs of communities in decline. Whether that change means a rebirth or a slow death that inevitably turns part of a city into a ghost town, there are parallels to our own lives that this trailer captures beautifully. This is a slow burn of a narrative, to be sure, but the moments that we’re given, the pacing that this trailer has, it’s something we see little of nowadays.
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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