The trailer for Paul Schrader’s neon–lit, lusty and dusty desert melodrama “The Canyons” communicates passion and danger in 21st century Los Angeles and an ancestral history in Hollywood pulp.
What We Love: The dialogue–free trailer boasts granular, sepia–tinted cinematography and the score of a 1940s horror flick. There’s also a vintage narrative structure, complete with frequent intertitles and the kind of font used to promote black–and–white B–movie thrillers. The wistful panoramas of the California landscapes evoke Spaghetti Westerns, and the smokiness of the shots recalls film noir. The cast is solid —Lindsay Lohan looks convincing as the “as sweet as sin” femme fatale, and the square–jawed, aptly named porn star James Deen, playing the lead, exudes a sexy, stony insatiability. Also, Academy Award–nominated director Gus Van Sant plays his therapist, but they probably won’t have a “Good Will Hunting” kind of relationship. Who knows, though? The trailer is vague, in an attention–grabbing way.
What We Don’t: This same vagueness is frustrating. There’s a heavy emphasis on presentation of themes and dramatic possibilities, but little action. There’s no way to tell if the movie is either a libidinous neo–“Rebel Without a Cause” or a monotonous fruit salad of a movie, Frankensteined from golden oldies of different genres. Regardless, the trailer is gorgeously organized, nostalgic and (in an age of dreadfully explicit previews) uniquely simple. It’s also one of the first modern, non–Tarantino movies that reflects, both in appearance and composition, the cheapness and luridness of the Hollywood legacy.