Art of anticipation : the artistic status of the film trailer and its place in a wider cinematic culture
Hesford, Daniel William
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Close association with, and proximity to, a culture of commercialism means film trailers are often overlooked in academic analyses of cinema. Trailers are, for many audiences, simply adverts: disposable, consumable and not 'worthy' of the critical attention paid to the their feature-length antecedents. Yet trailers' undeniable impact on spectators generates a spectrum of reactions which contradicts the often dismissive and negative reception with which they are met. Trailers receive intense popular and critical scrutiny and are constantly compared to the films they represent. Despite negative associations with commercialism and advertising culture, trailers are archived, exhibited and produced and discussed in contexts very similar to film and seem to share more than just a receptive connection. This thesis explores the artistic qualities of the trailer and examines its position as part of a wider cinematic culture. I will demonstrate the trailer's artistic status by arguing for a redefinition of the field of film studies and examining the trailer through a number existing theoretical discourses, including auteur-theory and Deleuze's ideas for the Movement and Time Image. My study will focus on Hollywood film trailers from a number of eras and cover an extensive body of case studies. Each era will be used demonstrate that trailers are artistic texts and members of a cinematic - as opposed to advertisement - culture. The first era focuses on the trailers of Alfred Hitchcock, which exhibit the early signs of innovation and artistic expression in a format still viewed overwhelmingly as an advertising context. Hitchcock himself intervenes in his trailers as an auteur - producing memorable and undeniably cinematic film texts. Hitchcock’s trailers are spaces in which Deleuzean film theory is eminently visible and the trailers discussed offer the opportunity for greater understanding of Gilles Deleuze’s work. Following Hitchcock, the ‘blockbuster’ era covers high-budget, highly commercial films from the seventies and eighties. Blockbuster trailers see strong codification of convention and style - and a re-presentation of the affect as a unit of commercial and artistic value. Martine Beugnet’s Cinema of Sensation is embodied in this group, in examples which fuse the artistic and commercial aspects of trailer identity. The final chapter examines the ‘postmodern’ trailer. In this era, the trailer moves beyond its commercial origins to the point they are often no longer applicable. Examples include 'spoof' trailers with no feature film antecedent and no detectable commercial intent. Postmodern trailers, I will argue, can be pure artistic expressions - and even work in reverse, generating commercial interest after the original instance of artistic exhibition.