Friday, February 22, 2013

Silver Bullets (2011)

WHO: Joe Swanberg wrote, directed and stars in this. He also has credits as cinematographer, editor, co-producer, and is even one of three people credited for sound. Such is the way of making movies on ultra-low budgets sometimes.

WHAT: Although the most widely-seen work Swanberg has made so far has been a segment of last year's "found footage" horror anthology V/H/S, his earlier Silver Bullets is not really, contra imdb, a horror movie. It does feature rather elaborate werewolf make-up by Brian Spears (Stake Land), and it may be frightening on an emotional level to anyone averse to seeing the rawness of an impending break-up portrayed on screen.  Silver Bullets is a seemingly-semi-autobiographical portrait of a crisis point in a relationship between an ultra-low-budget filmmaker (Swanberg) and his girlfriend/leading lady (played to perfection by Kate Lynn Sheil), in which interpersonal tensions erupt when the latter pursues an opportunity to take a role in a "film-within-film" by an independent horror movie maker (played by independent horror movie make Ti West).

It's also the only Swanberg movie I've seen (at the 2011 AFI Fest). I went in with very low expectations because many critics whose opinions I value have nothing good to say about his work, which is often labelled naïve or self-indulgent or worse. But I have to wonder how many of his detractors have seen Silver Bullets (at least one has indicated he felt it represented a growth step for the young auteur.)  Overall I was impressed. Though Swanberg makes some choices with the camera and with his audio mix that I found off-putting, the ultimate impact of the film was that it really captured a complex idea very well: that an artist has very different sorts of relationships with his artworks and his collaborators, and that allowing these to bleed over into each other is perilous. For more detailed analysis I recommend reading Jaime Christley's review at Slant, or what Dan Sallitt has to say on his blog.

WHERE/WHEN: Screening tonight only at 7PM at the Roxie Theater, on a double-bill with Swanberg's Art History.

WHY: Is Silver Bullets a fluke, or an entry point to discovering riches in the remainder of the Swanberg videography? I don't know, but right about now is the perfect time to find out. Tonight's screening of Silver Bullets launches a 12-title retrospective of features directed by the prolific 31-year-old since 2005. Of these twelve I believe nine are making their Frisco Bay theatrical premiere, and of the three that aren't (also including LOL and Hannah Takes the Stairs), All the Light in the Sky premiered only this week at the just-wrapped IndieFest. It's safe to say local cinemagoers have not had much chance to see Swanberg's work, so I'm glad the Roxie decided to take on this series, especially with the director expected to be present for all 12 screenings, ready to personally take credit or blame should it be assigned.

HOW: I believe all of Swanberg's movies were made on video, and will be shown via digital projections this weekend.

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