Steve McQueen‘s devastating portrait of sexual addiction –Shame– won critical acclaim last year, assisted, no doubt, by Michael Fassbender‘s widely discussed and extremely revealing performance. At the recent 41st Annual Hollywood Reporter Key Art Awards, its Red Band trailer was the recipient of a gold medal in the A/V category.
It’s a testimony to trailer art, all the more sincere considering that the film did only $4M domestically. Here, the entertainment marketing world seems to be celebrating excellent work, independent of box office bonafides, although given the mature and difficult subject matter, its likely that the materials positioned the film effectively and advantageously.
Let’s examine the trailer: In 1:26 minutes, there are a modest 36 edits. There is no dialogue. There is no voice over. There are no copy cards explaining the situation, establishing the attitude or exhorting your involvement. It’s all about two people on a subway, looking at one another: Mr. Fassbender, as Brandon, a successful New York professional and sex addict; and Lucy Walters as the woman on the subway, an attractive redhead who exchanges flirtatious and ultimately nervous glances for his bold, confident and aggressive ones. The color scheme is cool– blues and grey predominate– apart from the inserted flashbacks/flashforwards from Brandon’s sexual encounters, explicit sex scenes shot in hot colors and blurry closeup. The urban environment contrasts with the interior tropics, perhaps.
Here are the scenes:
–Open on the Fox Searchlight logo.
–Black screen, silence. Brandon is seen close up, his back to the subway window. He is Looking at the camera, a half-smile on his lips. He appears confident and interested.
–Cut to film festival laurels: in center, we learn that Mr. Fassbender was awarded the best actor award at Venice. In the next edit, this graphic is joined by 4 other, official selections laurels.
–We return to Brandon, still looking.
–Cut to the object of his gaze: an attractive woman in short kilt, boots and a beret. She notices his interest. She smiles, appears self-conscious, but also seems to be enjoying the reaction she’s aroused. This shot lasts 3 seconds.
–Back to Brandon. Still staring, boldly.
–Back to the woman on the subway: she crosses her leg with her hands in her lap, almost sensuously. This shot last 3 or 4 seconds.
–Back to Brandon, whose eyes follow her legs/hands.
–Insert: flashbacks of Brandon’s sexual encounters.
–A black card with the blurb from Daily Variety editor Justin Chang fills the screen: “Steve McQueen fearlessly plumbs the soul churning depths of sexual addiction.”
The low rumble of the subway interior becomes a loud ticking, as of a clock.
–As another train passes outside the window behind Brandon with a whooshing sound, he continues to devour her with his eyes.
–She glances sideways, aware of him and responding, but not boldly.
The warning bells of an approaching train are heard over the ticking.
–Arrival at the station, as seen in the window behind Brandon.
–Inserted scenes: A woman pulling down her panties as Brandon sits on the bed; He makes love to a woman against a building; Two people are seen in sexual congress against a high-rise window.
–Back to Brandon, staring.
–Cut to the woman on the subway. This shot plays long: her mouth open, she sighs, looks into the middle distant, but appears compliant.
–Back to Brandon who looks hungry and eager.
–Inserted scenes: close up of intimacy. Warm colors against black.
–Cut to Brandon
–Cut to her hand on the subway car pole, her wedding ring prominent.
–Cut to his hand placed below it. Pan up, as he takes his position behind her prior to exiting the car. She looks nervous or perhaps frightened.
–Cut to the title card – SHAME
–Brandon exits onto the platform, looking around anxiously as the camera circles and move in. The woman is gone gone and he’s lost his prey.
–Cut to Credit block.
–Cut to Shame the movie.com
In only 36 edits, this trailer tells so much so economically. This is a film of desire and flirtation, consummation and frustration, and relentless searching after the next and the next encounter. Whereas Brandon finds scores of willing partners, in this scene, his pursuit is unsuccessful. The inserted scenes of various passionate encounters indicate his usual and anticipated experience, but his frustration on the platform is perhaps a truer account of his existential malady.
As explicit and unflinching as the film is in its portrayal of sexual addiction, the trailer explores the larger point that Brandon’s situation is mental and interior, the hunger in his eyes and soul exceeds the satiation that he can obtain from his partners, who take their place in the gallery of his memory, mementos of contact with out connection or enduring reality.
Editorially, this trailer is indulgent and rhythmic rather than kinetic and spectacular. The languor of the flirtatious exchange of glances is captured and conveyed by the alternating 2 and 3 second shots, with tension built and excitement introduced through the punctuating and steamy images accessed by Brandon’s memory to inform and color the current pursuit.
Overall, a brave, subtle and “less is more” approach to the film, whose buzz was loud and for which anticipation was high.
movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.