Sunday, September 24, 2006

All for one brief touch of Venus

The onset of autumn always reminds me of the Far from Heaven trailer. Not the film itself. Its trailer. Weird, huh?

Maybe not. I have a terrible memory, but I do remember the first time I saw the trailer online. It was love at first sight. I was a sophomore in college. It was September. The advance buzz for Heaven was deafening, but how could it not be? Julianne Moore, you say? Julianne Moore in a women's picture? The concept was seismic. I watched the trailer again and again. Its everything a trailer should be.

The yearning! Those mysterious title cards: "What imprisons the desires...of the heart?" Those shots of melodrama backed by lush strings (the low rumbling cello is heart-rending, especially when it hits a chord on Julianne's name toward the end). Then finally Julianne's voiceover, in which we get the first hint of her breathy Doris Day-inspired cadence:

So often we fail in that kind of love...
the love that tells us to abandon our lives and plans...
all for one brief touch of Venus.

Which left us with that last haunting shot of Julianne and Dennis Quaid, clutching each other in the swirling grayness of some bittersweet turmoil. Sigh.

At first glance, it was difficult to tell what the movie was about, but I knew it must be something both grand and gossamer. In that sense, it was the perfect trailer; it gave me questions, not answers, all in one minute. But it went beyond that. It gave vision and voice to how I was feeling at the time: angsty, at once at odds and in love with life, desirous of something more but relieved I had anything at all. It set me quaking: If this was the trailer, then the movie must be a cataclysm of unrequited everything.

I saw the movie at a press screening on Oct. 6, 2002, on the way to the airport to fly home for fall break. It stunned me into submission. Punch-drunk, I rode the train (the train!) from Union Station to the Baltimore airport. Rocketing past the changing leaves, I thought, "Wow...but might the trailer...have been slightly better...than the movie?"

Far from Heaven is one of the great movie experiences of the past five years, to be sure, and any film blogger will tell you all about it (the final crane shot alone is gasp-worthy). But what I really really love about the trailer didn't make the movie. The magnificent music that accompanies the trailer is not Elmer Bernstein's. I've tried in vain to find out where it's from. And those great lines spoken by Julianne do not show up in the actual movie. I don't think Todd Haynes would've written it just for the trailer, so he must've cut it in a final edit. As much as it might violate the show-don't-tell mantra, I wish he'd kept it in.

I don't know where I'm going with this. Sometimes we assign cinema to seasons or specific days -- I always watch Groundhog Day on Groundhog Day, Annie Hall on Valentine's, A Christmas Story over the holidays -- and I think fall is the most cinematically evocative time for me. Perhaps that's because most of the good movies start coming out then. Either way, whenever I sense that first hint of autumn, I think of soft purples and reds and oranges, of Julianne, and trains, of a love that is blinked away and a self-awareness that is moments from blooming. And then I go watch this trailer to get that one brief touch of Venus.


maria w said...

What an insightful post. Cool topic. Enjoyed reading it.

Emma said...

Perfectly said. A masterpiece.

tk said...

I kind of thought the same too. The movie is terrific, but it is slightly more cloying and affected than the trailer. If they could've somehow matched the movie's tone to the trailer's, we would've had something even better.

is that so wrong? said...

SoundtrackNet says that the music from the Far From Heaven theatrical trailer is from Indecent Proposal. Interesting.

Also: Every Thanksgiving I watch Adventures in Babysitting. No joke.

J.J. said...


I have no idea what to say. I don't believe it. But there it is. I feel...dirty.

Every Thanksgiving I watch Hannah & Her Sisters, since it's bookended by Thanksgivings. It's perfect.

Ehil Bent said...

The trailer could've been better if the shots lasted slightly longer. Lingered. Ya know.