NOTE: There may be a few spoilers here you won't want to read, some of which may come from my examining the footage. I don't think there is anything that will hurt your enjoyment of the film, but felt it should be mentioned.
This evening here in Cannes, the Weinstein Co. invited what must have been 30 or so journalists to screen extended trailers for Paul Thomas Anderson's The Master, David O. Russell's The Silver Linings Playbook and Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained. The trailers were screened in the order as listed above, which I would say was a calculated move getting us intrigued by The Master, softened by Silver Linings and going out with a bang with Django. Now let's dig a little deeper.
The Master made the strongest impression on me and for those of you that have already watched the teaser I've included here to the right, this was how the footage I saw began although, while using the same voice over, different footage from the film was shown instead.
It's still Joaquin Phoenix's character, Freddie, a drunken Naval officer speaking with his superior, but one shot in particular is a long dolly shot, rolling in closer and closer to Freddie as he approaches a bulletin board. He stops and begins writing on a piece of paper, finishes and heads back down the hallway, the way he came, as the camera continues dollying forward and past what he's written. "Gone to China."
The footage not seen in the teaser includes co-star Amy Adams and lead actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lancaster Dodd, the titular "master", a man claiming to be many things including writer, doctor and philosopher and he has attracted Freddie's attention. Dodd is a man who's witnessed the horrors of World War II and tries to rediscover who he is in post-war America and creates a belief system, something that catches on with other lost souls.
Freddie is one such soul and Adams' character, playing Lancaster's wife Mary Sue, doesn't necessarily trust him. Dodd, however, wants to help, but as the footage closed Adams says something along the lines of, "Maybe he's beyond help." I will say this, he definitely appears to have his issues as one snippet showed him masturbating on the beach. Not normal as far as I know.
A lot can be taken away from the small amount of footage that was shown, which must have totalled somewhere around four minutes. For starters, the performances look excellent. If this film is as good as this trailer leads me to believe it will be, we may be talking about three Oscar nominations for acting alone. Jonny Greenwood, who scored Anderson's There Will be Blood, is also back for this one and his music suits the mood beautifully.
Along with the dolly shot mentioned above, I found several of the shots to be interesting as Anderson and his cinematographer, Mihai Malaimare Jr. (Tetro), seem to focus heavily on close-ups, particularly a nearly hypnotic moment featuring Adams speaking directly into camera saying, "Look into my eyes."
Finally, while there have been denials that this film has anything to do with Scientology, I'm not really buying it, particularly based on Hoffman's introduction as Dodd.
Overall, the themes it looks like this film will be exploring will run deep with plenty to chew on as you walk out of the theater.
The Master opens on October 12.
The Silver Linings Playbook
I don't really have too much to say about The Silver Linings Playbook. It looked decent enough, but it also looked rather pedestrian. We've seen movies like this so many times before getting too worked up about it one way or another without seeing it in its entirety doesn't seem worth it. It was also the only preview that seemed to actually be a regular length trailer, but I'm not entirely sure if this is exactly what will be shown once it's officially released
Bradley Cooper plays Pat Peoples. He's just been released from a mental hospital and is trying to settle back into day-to-day life. He ultimately begins hanging out with Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) who also has her own share of problems. And on it goes from there.
Two things did stand out, however. The first being Lawrence, appearing so much more grown up here than she did in The Hunger Games. So much more of a woman. Secondly, Chris Tucker playing someone that isn't a fast-talking loud mouth was fun to see.
Overall, I wasn't moved to any great degree, though it looks very well made. I have a feeling it will be a good movie, but when it's sandwiched in-between a pair of rather unique features it seems little been-there-done-that.
The Silver Linings Playbook opens on November 21.
The footage I was most interested in seeing was that from Quentin Tarantino's Django Unchained and they must have shown something like a four minute trailer for this one too with two specific scenes shown in edited form followed by traditional bit of trailer cutting presenting the rest of the film.
I have read the first 20 or so pages of the screenplay and that's how the footage was introduced as a caravan of slaves are being led by a pair of men on horses when it turns from day to night and a carriage appears in the dark. It's Dr. King Shultz (Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter in disguise, and his carriage was one of the biggest highlights of what was shown as it has a giant tooth attached to the top of the carriage by a massive coil spring. When he says yes, he is a doctor, when asked what kind he turns to look backwards before turning back and saying, "A dentist."
The reason he's there is because he's looking for the film's titular character, Django (Jamie Foxx), and once he finds him he frees him, kills the two men driving the slave train and makes a deal with the now freed man. If Django helps him find the three Brittle brothers he'll help Django rescue his kidnapped wife (Kerry Washington). A pact is made.
A second scene features Don Johnson playing Spencer Gordon Bennet, something of a Southern "Big Daddy" type in a white suit, living comfortable on his giant plantation as King and Django show up at his doorstep on a mission. While King is lead by Gordon inside, Django (in a bright blue suit) is shown around the premises until he ultimately finds the first of the Brittle brothers, and shoots him dead in the chest. "I like the way you die boy," he says... the audience laughs.
Next is the introduction of Leonardo DiCaprio as the film's top dog villain, Calvin Candie. Django and Schultz have arrived and are exploring his compound known as "Candyland". Candie is a plantation owner who pits slaves against one another for sport and one thing is for sure, this film is very liberal in dropping the N-word and DiCaprio's Candie isn't an exception.
Overall, everything shown was essentially just what you'd expect from Tarantino in terms of visuals, dialogue and production design. To me it looked like Tarantino was making a western in the same way he made Kill Bill a samurai film, but the one thing that surprised me the most was that the actors aren't using heavy Southern accents. Waltz sounds a lot like he did in Inglourious Basterds, Foxx may have had a slight accent, but for the most part sounded as he does in other films and even DiCaprio wasn't playing his part too big, though his black and rotting teeth were quite telling.
The music choices, as expected, seem all across the board with one specific song I remember hearing was Johnny Cash's "Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold This Body Down)" which was perfect for what we were watching.
The trailer made it seem like this is more of a straight-forward, Sergio Leone Western rather than the B-movie spaghetti western I was expecting. I'm not sure if that's because of the way it was cut and if the end product will be much different, but one thing is for certain, we didn't see half of what is to come. Only brief glimpses were seen of Samuel L. Jackson's character playing DiCaprio's house slave Stephen and only a hint of Kerry Washington as Django's wife Broomhilda.
My guess is this is going to end up being the first trailer once its cut down to size and they are simply trying to play it as safe as possible. Understandable, it's hard to get people in to see Westerns, but with Tarantino's approach to the material, which is to more-or-less rip-off and modernize everything he loves about classic films, I think this is going to bring the people into the theater in droves and it won't be without its share of controversy.
Plus, it's got that last line from Foxx when he's asked what his character's name is and he replies, "Django, the D is silent."
Django Unchained opens on December 25.