It’s divided in two parts and downloadable off this blog: http://prevues.blogspot.com/2008/03/coming-attractions-history-of-movie.html
Could’t get any reading done yesterday save for the remaining pages of Kernan’s second chapter on “Trailer Rhetoric.” Yet, I was lucky to encounter another good quote on Hollywood’s ecology which fleshes out in greater detail the system of relations revolving around commodified images and personas.
The quote belongs to a section dedicated to stars which Kernan describes as one of three trailers’ forms of audience appeal (the other two being genre and story). The main feature of the rhetoric of stars is that they bring to the trailer an excess (of knowldege , of seduction, of information) that is linked to their “indexical relationship” with the social world. That is, a star’s trailer performance is imbued with an “intertextual specificity” overlaying the characteriological identity found in the promotional video with the audience’s knowledge of the star’s past roles and public persona. The peculiar relationship that the audience is supposed to entertain with stars, which Kernan argues is based on fascination, eroticization and a desire of identification, informs the author’s ecological approach to Hollywood as a “demimonde” existing in between myth and reality. A demimonde, which elsewhere Kernan describes as a “limbo,” is thus a
promotional realm wgere audiences, astars and filmmakers alike play roles, and where there is a different set of expectations as to truth claims than either fictiyon or documentary engender. This promotional world is a known entity, yet it has no geographical or even conceptual boundaries. It’s a culturally determined site, a shared commonplace: everyone knows what you mean when you say “Hollywood.” And wherever stars physically reside, they are the denizens of Hollywood along with the invisible technical crews and semivisible above-the-line production personnel such as directors and writers (who also sometimes appear in trailers). (66)
I need to set up a to-read list to put order into my research materials and ease the pain connected to future writing endavours. Since my project on TV trailer production ambitiously brings together issues from different fields of research, I thought I’d better group my materials into categories of interests. So here goes the schema for a possible categorization of available articles and books that I have so far collected:
2. monographies on trailers
5.moving image theory
8.media events (though maybe this one goes under hyperaesthetics??)
9.miscellany (collecting assorted stuff relating to case studies)
I’d like to stick with this categorization and post my future notes accordingly.
Right now, I am at page 62 of Lisa Kernan, Coming Attractions: Reading American Movie Trailers (U. of Texas Press, 2004). This is the classical text on trailers, replete with detailed information on what a trailer is, how it is produced and what kind of relations are fostered by its circulation. There also exists a documentary (available online, somewhere) inspired by this book. It is a good venue to collect general knowledge on the topic, though it is of little use if you are, like me, interested in analyzing trailers as a source of production, rather than as outcomes of a process of production. What you get from the documentary is a lot of interesting visual material on period trailers and interviews with some of the best known scholars in the fields. In Vinzenz Hediger’s case this is particularly useful seeing how his work on the topic has never been translated in English (he is a German-speaking Swiss).
As regards my research, Kernan’s volume is proving inspirational, concerned, as it is, with “contribut[ing] to a social history of desire” (2). It employs rhetorical analysis as a methodological tool to understand Hollywood’s assumptions about the cinema audience, in the mean time conceptualizing Hollywood as a historical and cultural-specific “ecosystem” stirred by “persuasion,” “anticipation,” “expectation,” “hype” etc. Although I am still ambivalent about approaching trailers as textual units as Kernan does, an ecological view of the movie industry is exactly where I place my research, emphasizing the role that exchange, affect and experience play in establishing, and regulating, different kinds of commodity relations. In the following quote, for example, desire (which Kernan refers to as hope) is evoked as a property of moving images. It is the element that pulls and aggregates, inviting forms of relationality (Kernan’s “anticipatory potentiality”) that emerge across the cinema screen as an experience involving both the spectator and the promotional images.
[T]he hopeful dimension of trailers often lies in the spaces between the montage of promotional images (the ideal film we create out of the trailer’s fragments), thus belonging not so much to the texts as to an often amorphous anticipatory potentiality available in the trailer spectatorship experience. (25)
I will have to mull over the implications of this quote so I’ll leave this post at this.