boyhood and the trailer form

Very occasionally, I will fixate on a particular trailer, and this past week has been one of those times: I’m sort of hypnotized by the Boyhood trailer. To be clear, in general my fascination is independent of how much I want to see the movie or think that it will be good. Instead, it has something to do with the way that movies are packaged and sold in the form of preview.

Trailers are a strange type of para-film that are designed to make us emote just barely the length of a song. They often succeed at this – I frequently feel as moved by trailers as I do by full movies. But unlike songs, the coming attractions don’t build from one to another as songs can over the course of an album. Trailers, by design, are modular. After the emotional wallop of a good preview, we just move on to another trailer with its own insistent presentation of a potentially cathartic movie. The emotion of a trailer is snuffed out about as quickly as it was evoked. Aesthetically, the entire medium is an odd cousin of the feature-length movies being sold; the trailer needs to convey the central conceit and the tone, leaving you with a feeling unsubstantiated by real story, where the whole film must unspool more slowly, seducing you and only gradually leading to the emotions it wants to inspire.

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leviathan has a really subtle point if i think really hard about it

Last year, the New York Times ran a profile of the filmmakers behind Leviathan, which I just saw on Monday. Here’s how the profile began:

Tucked within the syllabus for a class that the filmmaker and anthropologist Lucien Castaing-Taylor teaches at Harvard is a rhetorical question that sums up his view of nonfiction film: “If life is messy and unpredictable, and documentary is a reflection of life, should it not be digressive and open-ended too?”

Just so you know, I cannot in good conscience recommend Leviathan, as I was tempted to walk out of the theater due to boredom. That said, this aphorism from Castaing-Taylor does not even make the best case for the film, and of the reviews I’ve read, I haven’t seen anybody else do it, either.

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