🎬 #106 Great Unmade Films.
Taking a slightly different approach this week, writing about two films that haven’t happened but that promised to be something special. One, was of course, never meant to be a real film and the other hasn’t come to the screen for a variety of reasons. Both excellent prospective pieces of cinema.
Hope you enjoy having a look at films in a different way.
UNMADE-FILM ONE: LUCKY STAR
2002 Dir Michael Mann
[Film: 0mins Trailer: 2 mins 29 seconds]
I remember seeing this broadcast on TV. It promised to be a new Michael Mann thriller about a man with seemingly endless luck. It looked and sounded like the perfect Mann film - a hero operating on a different plane of existence, driven, on the edge, illusive. It wasn’t a film, nor intended to be one, it was a genius bit of creative thinking from ad agency Campbell Doyle Dye to promote the new Mercedes CL500. This was the protagonist’s car of choice. This was an incredibly fresh approach at the time and there was no branding on the film other than the product itself and the nod to the logo in the title ‘Lucky Star’ which is the name of the emblem. It took a bold leap of imagination to do something as brave as that.
I also remember finding this out through a news broadcast. The news, back in the day would usually end with a more uplifting, unusual, or fun bit of info to take the edge off. Of course on this night, their segment was about the fact that the trailer the country just saw was not a trailer for a real film, but a TV commercial for the new Mercedes. My young mind was blown away. What’s even more impressive is that they could easily have half-assed this, hired a Michael-mann alike, put branding at the end or even at the start of the film. But they didn’t - they committed wholeheartedly to the idea and still it’s one of the best films to not exist.
TL;DR Michael Mann directed Lucky Star is a Mercedes car commercial in the guise of a trailer - superb stuff.
*You can watch it right here
Fact: The creative team behind it chipped in their own money to secure Michael Mann’s involvement.
UNMADE-FILM TWO: A TOPIARY
2014 Dir Shane Carruth
[Film: 0mins Trailer: 2 mins 24 seconds]
Shane Carruth’s break out indie hit ‘Primer’ promised a filmmaker of staggeringly original conviction and vision. His follow-up to it, Upstream Colour fulfilled that promise once again. No one was or is making films like him. Soderbergh described him as the ‘illegitimate offspring of David Lynch and James Cameron’ and if you see his films you’ll know what he means. Vision is thrown around a lot but with Carruth’s creative work and mathematical-like imagination - the descriptor, I feel, is accurate in his case.
In the intervening 10 years between Primer and Upstream Colour he worked on
A Topiary. By all accounts, an incredibly ambitious project that involves kids discovering a machine that generates parts that can be assembled into mecha-like creatures or animals, and the story deals with the ramifications of the discovery. I’ve read the script, which you can also check out here. It’s super intense, dense and fascinating. It’s a world unlike anything else I’ve seen tackled. Both Soderbergh and Fincher were signed on as Executive producers, trying to lend their weight behind the project but, sadly, it never came to fruition.
Carruth, a number of years ago, put out a lot of material related to the film. This included the script linked above, concept art and the concept trailer [sizzle reel/clip-o-matic] there are a lot of different names for it. The idea is that a filmmaker will cut a fake trailer together to help studios/investors envision the tone and style of the film they have in their mind. Carruth’s version included his own CGI models of how he envisioned the parts of the ‘machines’ - made up of elements knows as funnels, petals, flowers and choruses. As you’ll see from the trailer below, it’s a film I would have loved to have seen.
TL;DR A Topiary promised a Speilbergian tale of kids and space toys wrapped in the detailed, mathematical poetry of Shane Carruth.
*You can watch the trailer right here
Fact: He got the budget down to $14 million but still no investors would back it.
You can check out the concept trailer for another Carruth project The Modern Ocean below as well as the script here.
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