Museum of Moving Image to Host Joe Swanberg for Film Screenings, 3/1-2


Museum of Moving Image to Host Joe Swanberg for Film Screenings, 3/1-2

Joe Swanberg is the writer-director and occasional actor whose micro-budget feature films helped spark a movement of DIY filmmaking known as mumblecore. On March 1 and 2, 2014, Museum of the Moving Image will presents a weekend retrospective with this prolific American filmmaker, who will appear at screenings of six of his films in the Sumner M. Redstone Theater.

The series, A Swanberg Sampler, features six of his finest films. Hannah Takes the Stairs (2007) marked the debut of indie superstar Greta Gerwig (as star and co-writer) and a cast also featuring fellow filmmakers Andrew Bujalski, Mark Duplass, and Ry Russo-Young. Another Gerwig effort-this time with Gerwig and Swanberg as co-directors, co-writers, and co-stars-Nights and Weekends (2008), centers on long-distance lovers who connect by phone on "nights and weekends."

In Silver Bullets and Art History-two of the six films Swanberg made in 2011 alone-the director's relationship with his actor takes center stage. The last two films in the series, Uncle Kent (2011) and All the Light in the Sky (2013), express a maturation in the director's themes, focusing on the end of youth.

Joe Swanberg's most recent film, Happy Christmas, premiered at Sundance this year, and will be distributed theatrically by Paramount Pictures and Magnolia Pictures.

"Swanberg's film capture the messy, often awkward emotional truths of real life," said Chief Curator David Schwartz, who organized the retrospective. "Much like another great behavioralist director, Howard Hawks, Swanberg's films are acutely observed, sharply perceptive, and deeply entertaining. While his films may at first seem naturalistic, they also have a heightened, almost theatrical quality, filled with moral and emotional crises that emerge organically. This selection of films demonstrates Swanberg's emergence as a significant American director."


Screenings will take place in the Sumner M. Redstone Theater at Museum of the Moving Image, 36-01 35 Avenue in Astoria, and are included with Museum admission and free for Museum members unless otherwise noted.

Joe Swanberg will be present at all screenings.

Hannah Takes the Stairs


Dir. Joe Swanberg. 2007, 83 mins. Digital projection. With Greta Gerwig, Kent Osborne, Andrew Bujalski, Mark Duplass, Ry Russo-Young, Mark Duplass. Swanberg's remarkably naturalistic portrait of callow youth heralded the arrival of an indie superstar in Greta Gerwig (who co-wrote the script). She is captivating as Hannah, a perpetually dissatisfied 20-something who drifts from one unfulfilling relationship to another, leaving a trail of messy emotions in her wake. Fellow DIY directors Andrew Bujalski, Mark Duplass, and Ry Russo-Young portray Hannah's coterie of friends and lovers, while Swanberg cuts through the stream of halting Gen-Y babble to locate moments of raw, unguarded emotion.

Nights and Weekends


Dir. Joe Swanberg, Greta Gerwig. 2008, 79 mins. With Greta Gerwig, Joe Swanberg. Swanberg and Gerwig co-wrote, directed, and starred in this similarly raw follow-up to Hannah Takes the Stairs, a fragmented, sometimes unnervingly true-to-life glimpse into a disintegrating 21st century relationship. Nights and weekends are the times that long-distance lovers James (in Chicago) and Mattie (in Brooklyn) carve out for their rambling cellphone chats and decreasingly satisfying hookups. Flash forward a year: post-breakup, James moves to New York for a job, the couple ("of what?" she asks) reconnects, and they find things more complicated than ever.

Silver Bullets


Dir. Joe Swanberg. 2011, 69 mins. Digital projection. With Kate Lyn Sheil, Joe Swanberg, Amy Seimetz, Ti West. Swanberg takes a fascinating turn into quasi-horror territory with this unsettling deconstruction of the actor-director relationship. He plays an indie filmmaker who starts to unravel when his girlfriend/lead actress takes a role in another director's werewolf movie. Vivid colors, moody lighting, horror makeup, masks-Swanberg ratchets up his style to an almost expressionistic level for this intensely personal, deeply disquieting exploration of the dark side of the artistic process.

Art History

SUNDAY, MARCH 2, 2:00 P.M.

Dir. Joe Swanberg. 2011, 74 mins. Digital projection. With Josephine Decker, Kent Osborne, Joe Swanberg. One of Swanberg's most thematically and stylistically fascinating films, Art History stars the director as a version of himself: an independent filmmaker shooting a no-budget, sexually explicit drama. While on set, the lines between fiction and real life begin to blur, complicating relationships between the director and his actors. Throughout, Swanberg modulates the mood via carefully controlled lighting design-alternately bright-lit and unsettlingly dark-while raising troubling questions about control, exploitation, and the filmmaking process.

Uncle Kent

SUNDAY, MARCH 2, 4:30 P.M.

Dir. Joe Swanberg. 2011, 72 mins. Digital projection. With Kevin Bewersdorf, Josephine Decker, Kent Osborne, Joe Swanberg, Jennifer Prediger. Swanberg's sixth feature (and the first of six films he released in 2011 alone) finds the director tackling themes of aging and alienation in the social media age with a freshly grown-up perspective. Newly 40, Kent, a cartoonist living in LA, spends his free time getting high, prowling Chatroulette, and filming most of his social interactions on a digital camera. His sad sack routine is upended by the arrival of cute but flighty online acquaintance Kate-precipitating a weekend of uncomfortable sexual tension and an apocalyptically awkward Craigslist hookup.

All the Light in the Sky

SUNDAY, MARCH 2, 7:00 P.M.

Dir. Joe Swanberg. 2012, 79 mins. Digital projection. With Jane Adams, Sophia Takal, Kent Osborne. A 45-year-old actress whiles away the days at her Malibu beach house, paddle-boarding and playing host to a visiting niece, as she sees her job offers dwindle and tries to stave off a looming midlife crisis. Jane Adams is the film's irresistible center of gravity, offering up an extraordinarily open, soul-baring performance as a woman confronting middle age. Swanberg, meanwhile, gives serious consideration to a new thematic concern-global warming and environmental destruction-that lends the film an unexpected and poignant universality.

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