This Week In Trailers: Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm, Truffle Hunters, The Great American Lie, Mandibles, Billie

Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: What better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising?

This week, we take a trip to the farm, go looking for insanely expensive fungus, wonder where we’re going in life, train a fly, and get to know Billie Holiday a little better.

Rockfield: The Studio on the Farm

Director Hannah Berryman is making something very niche, but very tantalizing.

50 years ago, deep in the Welsh countryside, two brothers were milking cows and preparing to take over the family farm – but dreamed of making music. They had the audacious idea to build a studio in their farmhouse attic and record their own tunes. Animals were kicked out of barns and musicians were moved into Nan’s spare bedroom. Inadvertently, they’d launched the legendary #Rockfield studios.

#BlackSabbath, #Oasis, #Coldplay, Stone Roses, Robert Plant, Simple Minds and more recall the mayhem and music they made at Rockfield over the decades. This is a story of rock and roll dreams intertwined with a family business’s fight for survival in the face of an ever-changing music landscape.

This is prime quarantine viewing material. The story of a recording studio shouldn’t be this fascinating, but because it was home to many rock-and-roll life-cycles, from Ozzy to Oasis, there’s something for everyone. The trailer doesn’t make this seem like anything other than a straight-up chat with those who were there and what it took to make the albums that many of us call masterworks.

Billie

Director James Erskine is shining a light on the obvious.

Billie Holiday had one of the greatest voices of all time and changed the face of American music. She was a woman of breath-taking talent and global popularity while also stirring controversy. She started a notable rebellion singing “Strange Fruit” which exposed the realities of Black life in America and earned her powerful enemies. Raw, emotional and brutally honest, Billie is filled with never-before-heard interviews from musical greats like Charles Mingus, Tony Bennett, Sylvia Syms and Count Basie.

The trailer is thrilling because of how legendary Holiday was, and is, to many who see her as one of the best of all time. In this film, we’ll get to hear it through her own words, the words of those who were influenced by what she did, and, perhaps controversially, without leveraging a cinematic shorthand: modern reenactments. Keeping it lo-fi is perhaps one of the best things you can do for someone who was famous before the advent of endless media coverage.

Truffle Hunters

Directors Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, who made the amazingly entertaining The Last Race, are here to talk truffles.

Deep in the forests of Northern Italy resides the prized white Alba truffle. Desired by the wealthiest patrons in the world, it remains a pungent but rarified mystery. It cannot be cultivated or found, even by the most resourceful of modern excavators. The only souls on Earth who know how to dig it up are a tiny circle of canines and their silver-haired human companions—Italian elders with walking sticks and devilish senses of humor—who only scour for the truffle at night so as not to leave any clues for others. Still, this small enclave of hunters induces a feverish buying market that spans the globe. With unprecedented access to the elusive truffle hunters, filmmakers Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw (The Last Race, 2018 Sundance Film Festival) follow this maddening cycle from the forest floor to the pristine restaurant plate. With a wily and absurdist flare, The Truffle Hunters captures a precarious ritual constantly threatened by greed and outside influences but still somehow protected by those clever, tight-lipped few who know how to unearth the magic within nature.

This is amazing content. You can keep your true crime documentaries, I’ll gladly take stories about hunting down these rare, edible gems only the bourgeois will ever enjoy every day of the week for absurdly high prices. I don’t know what mental itch this doc scratches, but there’s just something fascinating about it. Plus, you’ve also got doggies who are trained to sniff these things out, so the rapid smelling of our canine companions is also a delight. Aces all around.

The Great American Lie

I don’t know what it will change, but director Jennifer Siebel Newsom is laying bare a sad truth we know all too well.

The Great American Lie examines the roots of systemic inequalities through a unique gender lens. With America facing widening economic inequality and stagnant social mobility, this film takes audiences on an empathy journey, inspiring a path forward.

This content isn’t easy to tackle, and I wouldn’t call it enjoyable entertainment. But these are the stories that need telling. Many people are out there, working and trying to give their families better opportunities for advancement, but something feels amiss in this system. Wages have stagnated, the top upper echelon of society looks to be thriving while those in the bottom quartile are not seeing the same benefit. So what is a society to do? Examine what is happening and dissect the issue. Again, this isn’t easy to swallow, but the trailer blends visuals and narrative smoothly and, as well as it can in these circumstances, excitingly.

Mandibles

Director Quentin Dupieux, who gave us Rubber, Deerskin, Wrong, and odd movies, is back to play with reality.

French comedy duo Grégoire Ludig and David Marsais co-star as two goofy friends who find a giant fly in trapped in their car boot and decide to train it as moneymaking venture. Adèle Exarchopoulos, Coralie Russier and India Hair as well as Belgian rapper and hip hop artist Romeo Elvis join them in the cast.

I immediately got Kafka vibes. But instead of this being an examination of existential anomie, we’ve got a couple of rubes trying to train a fly for an easy buck. I can’t speak about anything in this trailer in a way that can help put all this into perspective. It’s absurd for a reason and, honestly, it’s best seen through that lens. It’s strange, funny, super weird, and it’s something that I’m looking forward to seeing in the near future.

Nota bene: If you have any suggestions of trailers for possible inclusion in this column, even have a trailer of your own to pitch, please let me know by sending me a note at [email protected] or look me up via Twitter at @Stipp

In case you missed them, here are the other trailers we covered at /Film this week: