Joe Swanberg Is Making a Low-Budget Film in His Low-Budget Film Art History


Throughout Art History—another origami dispatch from mumblecore associate Joe Swanberg’s inner circle—men ask Josephine Decker if she’s all right. The first time it happens, she has just tugged a condom down co-star Kent Osborne’s member during what turns out to be a film shoot. Looming by the bed with a low-slung camera, Swanberg calls cut and checks in with his naked actress. The answer comes in the film’s final moments, but the rest of Art History is caught up in the disingenuousness of the question. Although half of the film passes without a clear shot of Decker’s face, we linger on Swanberg brooding at his laptop, where he edits another semi-core collage as his actors slide from improv into the real thing in the next room. Jealousies and contempt begin swirling like the shadows in numerous night-swimming sequences. The contrast between the clinically bright sex scenes—every freckle and tuft of peach fuzz are clarified in high definition—and the dark lyricism of the house where they are shooting is stark but inscrutable. Swanberg has discovered lighting and mood—to occasionally stunning effect. Perhaps in some future memo from the front lines of indie-sploitation, he will unite them with story and more than a superficial nod to character.