Art of the Trailer: Shame (2011) (Red Band)

The goal of a good trailer is to entice the target audience to come see the film. It can focus on plot, character, stars, style, action, one scene, many scenes, everything, or nothing at all to get this job done. It can be comprised of footage from the film, footage cut from the film, or brand new footage made only for the trailer. Shame has a tough road ahead of it. This drama from writer/director Steve McQueen and co-writer Aby Morgan was slapped down with an NC-17 rating in America for "some explicit sexual content." I don't know what the MPAA expected from a film about a sex addict sleeping his way through NYC, but there you have it. Whereas last year's Blue Valetine petitioned the MPAA to overturn the rating (received because of a particularly brutal sex scene involving tears that was in no way gratuitous), Shame will be wearing its rating as a badge of honor.

Don't get me wrong. The original safe for everyone trailer for Shame was quite enjoyable. This new red band trailer, however, is likely to sway more people over to the dark side. It's the kind of trailer that makes you want to find out what's happening. NC-17 rating be damned; I've a good film to see.

The trailer is embedded below the jump. It's...rather tame for a red band trailer. It's not safe for work because of two very brief glimpses of intercourse, but longing gazes at a woman's legs and quick cross-cuts of a man seducing women hardly seems the stuff red band trailers are made of.

There is this great rhythm to the trailer. You have the initial eye contact between the two could-be lovers. He likes her and she likes him. It's not flirtatious; it's ravenous. They would rip each other's clothes off with their teeth in front of everyone if they could get away with it. Then the score kicks in--some processed drums, almost like the sound of heels clicking on sidewalk, in a steady eighth note rhythm similar to the bell sound at a railroad crossing--and things get intense. We start to see this man's other conquests, one after the other. He approaches the woman on the subway and she disappears out the door. The man does not have a look of disappointment, but one of pain. Losing that opportunity actually hurts him.

I think this trailer is very effective for what it doesn't show. We get, for the most part, a steady look at a man pursuing a woman. We don't know what his motivations are beyond her appearance and what she can do for him. Who is he? Why does he do this? What is he trying to get out of life? And how does he command so much sway over all these other women? All we know is that this man really wanted sex with (presumably) a stranger on the subway.

The risk with a trailer that shows so little and raises more questions than it answers is the actual quality of the film. Will it hold up over 101 minutes in a theater? Will audiences be able to find and remember the film? We don't know. What we do know is that the red band trailer has been circulated on a whole lot of blogs and entertainment sites because it is worthy of attention. It's a trailer for a film that assumes the audience does not need to know everything to be drawn into the theater. Because of this trailer, I want to see Shame more than ever.

Thoughts? Love to hear them.

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