I almost fell over myself with excitement a couple of months ago when I saw the trailer for Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. One of the things that I knew was going to get me through the door the day it opened was the music. It so perfectly captured the tension and mood, hitting each beat of the trailer, underpinning each throaty utterance of the kind of actorly line-up that casting directors fantasise about.
Except when I went to see the film recently, the music was nowhere to be found. Tinker Tailor is, for my money, the standout film of 2011 so far, that appears to to have found an actual wormhole back to 1973. The score by Alberto Iglesias is nicely atmospheric, unobtrusive, gets the job done, no complaints.
But… but I just couldn’t help but feel a bit shortchanged, robbed of what I thought was going to be an integral part of the cinema experience of Tinker Tailor. Even if I had got a burst of the trailer music over the end credits I would have been happy. I didn’t of course and scrambled for the internet as soon as I was back to find out what I’d missed. Unexpectedly, it was Danny Elfman’s score for The Wolfman. Needless to say I was straight over to Amazon for the music. I’ve given that film a miss so far and I think I can live without it. Mind you I might have felt differently if they had used Elfman’s music in the trailer for The Wolfman rather than this bland semi-rock.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised. This phenomenon is pretty routine practice. I first remember noticing it way back in 1992ish with a trailer (or it could have been a preview clip) for Disney’s Aladdin which used of all things an arrangement of John William’s Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra (without the burst of the Raiders March in the middle.) There are many reasons why it happens – the actual soundtrack isn’t complete, none of the cues fit the nice 90 second format of the trailer, the director and marketing department need a different mood and hook for the movie, and so on. When the trailer music is fairly generic, no harm done, but in the case of Tinker Tailor I think they’ve chosen such an distinctive piece they’ve actually ended up doing the film itself a disservice.
In fact the real musical star of the film is not the score by Alberto but the singing by Julio used over the closing scenes in a way that really shouldn’t work but utterly does. (That and a spook dressed as Lenin dressed as father Christmas leading an office party in a rendering of the Soviet national anthem.)
Trailers are a funny business. Their purpose is to get bums on seats, and in doing so they sometimes end up miss-selling the finished product (The American springs to mind) to the annoyance of punters. But sometimes they pay for this after their opening weekend once the ruse is rumbled.
But perhaps we should consider trailers as another art form – a type of short film. Never mind the film, in the end the Tinker Tailor trailer was one of the best of the year – a shoe-in for the Oscar for Best Trailer if such a thing existed.
Incidentally, if you want to see just how well the Wolfman version works, compare it to this other Tinker trailer which uses music from X-Men: First Class.
So, miss-selling or standalone mini-movies? Favourite soundtrack/trailer mashup?