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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Trailer Talk: World Trade Center

When I saw the trailer to Oliver Stone's "World Trade Center" at the screening of "The DaVinci Code", I was struck by two things:

1) It makes the film look very commercial, the way that some of the "United 93" trailers made that film appear. "United 93", thankfully, turned out to be very tastefully, delicately, and powerfully constructed. "World Trade Center" might turn out to be an excellent film (Oliver Stone is no slouch), but I wonder about it... One of the things that made "United 93" work is that it is a very limited film -- it's about one aspect of the events of one particularly eventful day. The film is so dedicated to its story-within-a-larger-story that we never even see the towers fall (for me, and I imagine, for many people, the difinitive moment of that day's experience). "World Trade Center", by its title, and by the preview, focuses on those towers, and on the rescue personnel who went in to try to keep the worst from happening. Approaching this type of story, a question is begged: The events of September 11 were terrible to watch from a distance -- the story of the witness-from-the-living-room can be chilling and dramatic enough -- so why do we need to go inside (and if you look at the trailer, we do go inside the building, in to what appears to be its lobby, as it is coming down. Even in the trailer! The Naudet Brothers' documentary on 9/11 included footage from inside one tower as the other tower collapsed, and most of that footage was utter darkness. If Oliver Stone asked himself this question, then I suspect that the film will have an answer.

2) You need to see this trailer in theaters in order to understand what I mean by this point, because computer screens won't get it: They matched the weather. I don't know how the heck they did this, but they matched the weather. I was in the Boston area in September, 2001, and the weather on that particular day was pretty much identical between Boston and New York. One of the first things that struck me as I watched this preview was that the color of the air somehow matched my recollections. This was something that I noticed in "United 93" as well -- the color of the weather (call it color saturation, call it color-balance, call it what you want) matched my memories. And the absolutely fascinating thing is that between "United 93" and "World Trade Center", you have two very different approaches to the way that particular day looked, but both seem equally true-to-the-original. I think that the key to why this works lies in the way each film sets up what "outside, during the day" means. The outdoors of New York City of each film is an outdoors in relation to an indoors. The exteriors are contrasted with interiors. I suspect that the reason both "United 93" and this "World Trade Center" trailer seem to accurately mirror my memories of that day's weather (despite the differences between the films' "look") is that both films are very concscious of making the day look a certain way -- bright, sunny, cloudless... and each film approaches the exteriors by contrasting them with interiors, and by matching the visual style of the exteriors to the visual approach to the interiors. Okay, this is getting a little technical. In "United 93", there's a lot of grainy, over-exposed stuff, even on the interiors of buildings. The colors are muted, but the whites are harsh. When we see the outdoors in that film, they are even brighter -- it all looks as though someone pointed a camera without adjusting to the fact that it's such a bright, sunny day. And that makes it seem even brighter and sunnier. "World Trade Center", judging by the trailer, is shot in a bit of a more standard way, with cleaner, crisper film stock, and with a better balance of colors... so its approach to what that type of weather looks like involves emphasizing the blue of the sky, and emphasizing the effects of sunlight on different colors (making them more vibrant, more 'alive'). I can't know how much of this is true without speaking with the postproduction supervisors of both films (they would be the ones in charge of conveying color conversations from the director to the people who actually handle color correction and all of that.)

One more interesting note on the trailer comes from The Professor, and can be found here: http://nightspore.livejournal.com/146457.html

-AzS

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