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A Magazine for Sheffield

Hype & Trailers.

Ben Halford.

Hollywood virtually runs on hype and follows a simple formula. If there’s publicity and money to be made then it must be capitalised on. Because of this, sequels have long been a prolific part of the American film industry. Sequels are often there to milk money from a franchise and have a tendency to sink further beneath lazy, by-the-numbers filmmaking.

There are exceptions to the formula – despite the horrors of Grease 2 and Robocop 2, there’s also the rarefied heights of The Godfather: Part II and The Empire Strikes Back, which show that sequels can be just as good as, if not an improvement on, what came before (although a worrying realisation comes when you discover that the same director made The Empire Strikes Back and Robocop 2).

Ultimately, while they’re often scorned for their cynical origins, sequels are really just like films in singular instalments. There’s poorly-made dross with little artistic integrity, the occasional jewel that lives up to its entertaining promise and a majority of films that are just perfectly decent, if not world-changing.

The other side to the publicity juggernaut is the use of trailers. Much like sequels, trailers have been with us throughout the vast majority of film history. They’re made with the intention to inform and entertain, in the hopes that a little sneak preview will be enough to entice a large audience. However, a new and more controversial trend – the rising popularity of taking a whole scene out of a film for preview – is becoming a bone of contention.

When all is said and done, these are trying times economically and even the old guard isn’t invincible, as illustrated by the downfall of one-time titan MGM, which filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

As much as they’re given stick by the critics, franchises, sequels and the publicity machine are all certified money-spinners which provide what is perhaps the safest financial option in an often unpredictable industry; more so than risking a lot of money on a new project that becomes a non-starter, like the recent box office bomb John Carter.

The cynics may scoff, but at least from a business perspective, it’s mostly a proven success and occasionally there are at least a couple of diamonds in the rough.



Peripheral to the rumour-churning strategies that industry behemoths religiously pursue and propagate across the worldwide web, there’s a whole cross-section of original filmmaking playing a similar game on the very same platforms of promotion.

These controversy-courting projects are the opposite of what is known as ‘acquired properties’, such as comic books and franchises with an established fan-base and guaranteed popularity. They build, to a large extent, on reputation of those involved but push other buttons of interest that only the internet seems to legitimise these days.

Whilst Spike Lee’s remake of the South Korean cult favourite Oldboy (itself an acquired Manga property) touches on much of the above (with endless guessing on whether the incest element of the original is retained or not), the current paramount example of this has to be Nymphomaniac, by the so-called enfant terrible of modern Cinema, Lars Von Trier.

So far, the only truly commendable quality of Nymphomaniac is its fearless (if not to say shameless) identification with Von Trier’s finest trait: not caring in the slightest for what we think. Everything else feels dubious, unsubtle, contrived and self-indulgent, bringing the director’s appalling Antichrist to mind.

The hype strategy relies largely on social media and continues to be crafted around the announced hardcore aspects of the film. Its willingness to play along with the over excited speculations that proliferate across online forums is simultaneously clever and infantile. After brushing certain cast members’ remarks aside and establishing that the film is being released in two versions (softcore and hardcore), the ‘controversial’ imagery began to trickle in.

If the teaser poster, featuring the tagline ‘Forget about Love’ and two mildly suggestive large brackets, showed some sophisticated minimalism, the few promotional stills that followed are tacky beyond belief. Leading actress Charlotte Gainsbourg disrobed and flanked by two black men is a risible attempt at controversy and the ensemble cast picture plays ineffectively on self-awareness and crass humour.

Then there was the announcement of previews relating to each of the eight chapters being steadily released until the film’s premiere. A nice touch, but the two made available so far confirm Von Trier as a fading talent. The first is a perplexingly badly edited affair; the second, an amateur version of The Office.

In principle, the controlled hype strategy of Nymphomaniac gets it right – keep the veil of secrecy, tantalise with as little information as possible – but what’s gradually being revealed as the content puts the whole thing into question. And, ultimately, it’s the film that matters.

If Von Trier is going to surprise us all with a profound study of nymphomania, it remains to be seen, but I’m not sure if my interest hasn’t already faded to the point of absolute indifference...

Coming soon to Filmreel – and still on the matter of hype – we will be Streaming...


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