Monday, May 07, 2007

Classic Trailer Theater: Casablanca

We know Casablanca as one of the most beloved movies of all time, but in 1942, Warner Brothers only knew the film as a programmer with a good cast. The trailer for Casablanca looks like most of the ones I've seen from this period, particularly in the wipes department: old studio trailers are always cut together with wipes. I wonder if this was as much a technical choice as it was a stylistic one having to do with the nature of making these things out of film instead of digital copies. That is pure conjecture on my part though, and a potential future research topic for you scholars out there.



Blogger Matt Hauske said...

This is an excellent question, Matt, but your conjecture is completely wrong. It has nothing to do with technical ease or film vs. digital (which had barely been imagined by that point) and everything to do, I would argue, with the same kind of hyper-stylizationi you see in movie trailers today.

Look how much more dynamic the trailer becomes when you zazz it up with some crazy-ass wipes. These things don't just wipe up and down or side to side like Daniel-san getting a lesson from Mr. Miyagi or yo' momma cleaning your poopy bottom. They start from the bottom middle and swirl up and around, they fold down from the center of the frame like a pair of legs, they crumple like a sheet of paper, they iris-in and iris-out, they even shatter like a pane of glass. Notice how when an actual scene of dialogue appears the trailer editing resumes the classical editing patterns, alternating from two-shots to close-ups and close-ups back to establishing shots. It gives you a bit of plot before going back to the dominant zazz (good band name) of the trailer.

There's other crazy stylistic moves the trailer makes to catch your attention, too: Look at how the words enter and leave the screen. They don't just suddenly appear, they wipe or twirl on and off. Also check it out when the counter's at about 1:45. A man runs through a door and shoots a gun. Notice that single blank frame that visually (almost subliminally) emphasizes the sound of the gunshot? I don't know if that's in the real film, but if it's not I wouldn't be surprised. Along with the spiffy voiceover narration, all that stuff's there for extra style to wow the audience, just like today, only today trailers are probably less likely to have an acutal scene of dialogue, even if it only consists of 2 shots. Off the top of my head I'd say they probably have more complicated combinations of sound and image and that characters in trailers are rarely shown saying the words the audience is actually hearing. Instead the dialogue is dubbed over something exploding or someone crying or laughing or spinning on a beach with his or her arms spread out.

So in other words, the wipes have nothing to do with filmmakers compensating for something that didn't exist in the first place (digital copies). But I bet someone smarter than me could argue that lots of filmmakers using digital make their trailers extra-super zazzy with super-extra snazzy digital editing software to compensate for stuff they know they don't have: a good movie and talent.

10:59 PM  
Blogger Matt Singer said...

As I said, I had no proof of such a thing, it was just a question I posed. You make a fine argument for the wipes as a stylistic choice. You also make fine use of the letter 'z' which appears more in your comment than in all of Termite Art up to this point. Kudos.

11:06 PM  
Blogger P.L. Kerpius said...

I don't know why Hauske doesn't ever fucking post anything, because that was a nice breakdown of a credit sequence.

Singer, you just keep poking with these questions and let Matt warm up to the blogosphere. I think he'll come around. At least if he gets angry enough. (Don't tell me you forgot about the "Hauske Rage?" That's key.)

10:23 PM  

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