Weekend Trailer Roundup: The Grandmaster

Next up for this weekend is The Grandmaster, the newest film from acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai.

This is a trailer that knows exactly what it’s selling and how to sell it. It’s a very simple piece: one short clip, bookended by voiceover. This not only keeps the trailer from breaking the cardinal rule of “don’t give away the whole film in the trailer,” but also helps build anticipation for the film in question.

In a minute and nine seconds, we know everything we need to about The Grandmaster. It’s a martial arts action movie, and the intensity of the fight sequence being displayed (as well as the cinematic grandeur used to display it) is more than enough to persuade kung-fu fans to see it. Yet the use of narration also adds another layer. Everything we see is deadly serious- the colors are all very muted save for a drop of blood, and the hero of the trailer is a destructive force, toppling opponent after opponent as well as much of the surrounding architecture. Everything we hear, however, can’t be described the same way. That voiceover is just a smidgeon too cliched for the visuals it’s being paired with, and ends up adding just a dash of camp to the frenzied, gleeful action. Thus, from this trailer we can conclude that The Grandmaster is a serious martial arts film that knows not to take itself too seriously.

This all works fine in selling the film to a martial arts crowd, but saving the director’s name for the very end is a deft move that allows this trailer to cater to an entirely different audience. Fans of art film and Asian cinema undoubtably know Kar-Wai’s name well (as he’s been one of the most critically lauded directors of the past twenty years), but unlike most arthouse trailers, this clip understands that the director’s name is enough to sell the film. Had the trailer been inundated with award after award that the film has won (as arthouse trailers often do), the timing of the fight sequence would have been hampered significantly, and an action-craving audience may have been turned away. In something as simple as the placing of the director’s name, the trailer for The Grandmaster effectively doubles its audience- a clever move for a very clever trailer.

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