In my recut project, I transformed American Psycho (Mary Harron, 2000) into a romantic, feel-good film. My choice to transform the genre of American Psycho into a romance film was motivated by a belief that any film can be manipulated or reworked to invoke a certain belief in the audience. In doing so, I wanted to drastically change the film’s genre to achieve this and, more importantly, to show film is nothing more than a false reality that can be manipulated and reworked to prove a certain message. Chuck Klosterman suggests that the best films are those that question the existence of reality; he writes, “Modern movies can no longer introduce impending realities; they can’t even explain the ones we currently have. Consequently, there’s only one important question a culturally significant film can ask: What is reality?” (Klosterman 156) Feel-good films are ubiquitous in today’s culture. Many people only want to see movies that make them happy. However, a film like American Psycho is an example of one of those films that blurs the lines of reality; was Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) a crazy sadomasochist or just a psychologically, disturbed individual? Thus, in transforming American Psycho into a romance film, American Lovers, I hoped to ironize this obsession with mushy, love genre films.
In pursuing this idealistic and familiar genre of romance, I used my trailer to portray the common attributes and plot lines of a love film. Thus, the evolution of my trailer is an obvious one. It begins with introducing Patrick Bateman as an ideal character; he’s funny, handsome and popular. Then, tragedy strikes Bateman when he finds out his wife cheated on him prompting his breaks up with her in hopes of one day finding love again. Then, there are a few scenes where Bateman is portrayed as a menacing character towards women, fleeing from romantic encounters. Then, the trailer culminates in this euphoric moment, where he asks his secretary (Chloë Sevigny) on a date, allowing for Patrick to find love again. The trailer follows this recognizable plot line to help the audience associate themselves with a familiar story of love, betrayal, and redemption. However familiar American Lovers may seem, it still has the ability to touch its audience in a new way (I even smile when I watch the trailer!) Similarly, Thomas Sobchack argues that a genre film has the ability to touch its audience through commonality; he writes, “[Genre film] is still capable of creating the classical experience because of this insistence on the familiar. It is that which we expect in a genre film and that which we get” (198).
I also achieved this common plot line and genre type through the shots, effects, and transitions in the trailer. Firstly, the trailer begins with a close-up in which the camera focuses on the smiling face of Patrick Bateman. As Bernard Dick points out, “the close-up is also a means of emphasis” (Dick 53). Here, the emphasis is on the joyous face of Bateman. Another crucial editing tool was the use of the fade-out after Bateman exclaims, “I am just a happy camper!” The camera immediately fades to black and there is a scratchy sound effect to mock the character’s state of innocent joy, implying there is something deeper going on. Additionally, the rhythm is slowed down on the scene in which Bateman gives his monologue acknowledging the fact that his wife is cheating on him. Bernard Dick describes a film’s use of rhythm by writing, “One sequence may be uncommonly slow, while another may be unusually fast” (81). Here, the scenes are drastically slowed down to show the nostalgic feeling that Bateman experiences when he finds out his wife has cheated on him.
Another way that I achieved my genre transformation was through the use of audio. Ironically, I used Huey Lewis And The News’ “Hip To Be Square” in the first part of the trailer. For anyone who has seen American Psycho, this song is made famous in the scene where Patrick Bateman murders his co-worker, Paul Allen (Jared Leto). I intentionally play on this aspect of the film by using this song to help portray Bateman as a happy, go-lucky character. This further confirms my belief that any film can be manipulated to convey a particular message and, in this case, a message of happiness that is all too common in the romance genre. In American Lovers, the song displays Bateman’s state of joy. Conversely, American Psycho uses the song in companion with the character’s psychotic behaviors. I also used The Fray’s “How To Save A Life” to further align my film within the romantic genre, as every romance trailer includes some stereotypical love song.
There were many frustrations and trials that I faced throughout my video project. Firstly, I switched films and creative concepts after the first day. Initially, I was going to restructure The Sandlot into a horror film but I had trouble encoding the DVD in HandBrake, so I opted to use American Psycho instead. Another frustrating aspect of the project was just the immense amount of detail that was needed to perfect a scene. More often than not, I had to adjust the audio levels on scenes, restructure the video, and find the right transition or effect that fit a particular scene. The best advice I could give to future students is this: START EARLY. Don’t try to wait until the last day to do your project. While I’m sure it can be done, it’ll be overwhelming. Take time to experiment with Adobe Premier. This will help you feel more comfortable with the program and even give you some better ideas about the direction you want to go with your remixed trailer. Overall, this project was extremely rewarding and I’m very glad that I learned how to use Adobe Premier!
In case you aren’t familiar with American Pyscho (Mary Harron, 2000), here are some of Patrick Bateman’s (Christian Bale) greatest moments.
Dick, Bernard F. Anatomy of Film. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2002. Print.
Klosterman, Chuck. Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs : A Low Culture Manifesto / Chuck Klosterman. New York : Scribner, c2004; 1st Scribner trade pbk. ed, 2004. Print.
Sobchack, Thomas. “Genre Film: A Classical Experience.” Literature Film Quarterly 3.3 (1975): 196. Print.