Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

A note on misleading promotion.

We’ve talked about this more than a few times in the past. The most outrageous class of misleading promotion remains the habit of issuing trailers for foreign language films that conspicuously fail to include any dialogue. You could sit through …

Sun, Sep 19, 2010, 19:29

   

We’ve talked about this more than a few times in the past. The most outrageous class of misleading promotion remains the habit of issuing trailers for foreign language films that conspicuously fail to include any dialogue. You could sit through promos for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Lives of Others and Micmacs without ever suspecting the relevant films were, respectively, in Swedish, German and French.

Something a little more subtle is afoot with the poster for the current comedy Cyrus:

Look at Jonah Hill making the universal sign for the merchant banker behind poor John C Reilly’s back. Check out the tagline: Dream Woman. Nightmare Son. So, are any lies being told here? Absolutely not. This is at a lower level of disingenuousness than the foreign-language trailer incidents. The film is, indeed, a (pretty good) comedy about a guy who meets a girl with a madly jealous, annoyingly disruptive grown-up son. The issue here is to do with tone. The poster seems to suggest that the film is a mad romp in the style of Reilly flicks such as Step Brothers or Hill comedies such as Superbad. In fact, it’s a greasy, largely handheld slab of mumblecore from a pair of brothers who, until recently, made films for the price of a bunch of bananas. The trailer is also somewhat misleading, but watch closely and you will spot two giveaway pieces of information: the news that Cyrus was an official presentation at Sundance and an unmistakable glimpse of the great Catherine Keener. Keener? Sundance? Keener? Sundance? Hang on, a moment. You, Cyrus, are no Talladega Nights (not that there’s anything at all wrong with Talladega Nights).

Here’s the question. What do the studios imagine will happen when the punter gets into the cinema. Will he or she say: “Oh, I was, to this point, resistant to German cinema, but, having enjoyed The Lives of Others, I shall now be seeking out the complete back catalogue of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Might they say: “What a blasted swizz. This film is in foreign and that.” The grim truth is that the studios probably don’t care. Once they’ve paid, few punters — not least because they might look stupid — are going to bother asking for their money back.

Of course, misleading posters can, from time to time, be quite beautiful. As you may be aware, during the Soviet era, the Polish distributors commissioned quite gorgeous painted posters for foreign films. (I have rather lovely ones for Gremlins and The Seven Samurai.) Can you guess what this rather brilliant one is promoting?

Some obscure Czech satire, perhaps. An avant-garde piece by Kenneth Anger. No, it is, of course, the timeless low-brow comedy Weekend at Bernies. You remember. Anyway, check out more lovely Polish posters here.

We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 10 days from the date of publication.