IFC Films is gearing up to release Joe Swanberg’s 24 Exposures, which is certainly a more violent film (if not more lurid) than we’ve come to expect from the prolific writer/director. I really enjoyed the piece, even though it was sort of surreal to watch a fictionalized version of the dynamic shared by stars Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett (the director and writer team responsible for You’re Next, parts of V/H/S and V/H/S2 and the upcoming The Guest).
I spoke to Swanberg about the film, and his widening artistic palate, last week. We also touch on how 24 Exposures paved the way for Drinking Buddies and whether or not he feels like violence in cinema requires further examination.
Opening in select theaters January 24th, “24 Exposures connects the European art films of the 60’s with the late night Cinemax thrillers of the 90s as it investigates ideas of reality and fiction, art and pornography, life and death. A fetish photographer and a homicide detective are brought together when a young model turns up dead. They develop an unlikely friendship, as both are interested in what the other does for a living. Inspired by Nicolas Roeg and Zalman King, Jean Luc Godard and Roger Corman, Michaelangelo Antonioni and Russ Meyers, the film mixes high art and exploitation and asks you to question if there’s any difference between the two when it comes to the artistic impulse.“
It was my curiosity about their working relationship. They strike me as a bit of an odd couple in terms of their personalities. I was interested in how these two guys who feel completely different to me work together so well. And I was interested in the question the movie asks, “why genre stuff? Why is that the direction your career has taken?” Death and violence and things like that that are artistically interesting to use. They’ve spent a lot of their careers playing in that realm.
You have a scene where Adam is explaining that genre is something he’s drawn to as an artist, that it shouldn’t be analyzed. Is that your ethos when it comes to your own work?
One of the reasons Adam was an interesting subject to me is that I’m so much more intellectual about everything that I do. I analyze pretty heavily even though I do a lot of improvisation and sort of dive into these projects, I put a lot of thought into why I’m interested in the things I’m interested in and I don’t think Adam does. He’s different from me in that way. I usually make movies as a way to explore people who I am not. This one was a chance to ask him some of those questions and talk about some of that stuff. I hope the movie asks the question, “is it valid to do this stuff without thinking about it?” You would hope that artists would be able to do whatever they want, but there is a question of social responsibility and things like that.
You were on a tight schedule but there’s a lot of action, set-ups, locations and violence. It’s not a static film.
It’s one of the bigger films that I’ve done. I wanted to try my hand at a lot of dolly moves and I certainly was inspired by Adam and Simon in that regard. When I started working with Adam we were both making $5,000 and $10,000 moves. Then I got to see him make A Horrible Way To Die which was a bigger production and then You’re Next which was a much bigger production and I felt like I wanted to challenge myself in similar ways. To not get comfortable in the types of movies I had been doing and to do different things. The sense of a constantly moving camera was absent from a lot of my films. That was one of the big things with 24 Exposures, to play around with being that kind of director.
You shot Drinking Buddies and All The Light In The Sky after this, would you say that 24 Exposures opened you up to those?
Yeah I think that it liberated me to feel comfortable to continue to push outside of that small naturalistic realm. It’s very much the outlier. All The Lights In The Sky and Drinking Buddies are very much character studies in the way that my earlier films had been, but certainly 24 Exposures was a chance to work with a bigger crew and do a film in a more traditional way that would prepare me for Drinking Buddies. I felt very lucky to have the chance to do 24 Exposures beforehand.
As a beer guy, what’s your favorite beer right now?
There are two beers right now that I’ve been drinking that are not Chicago beers. I have to give you multiple answers [laughs]. My favorite non Chicago beers are The El Segundo brewing company has a Citra Pale Ale that’s really good and then the Maine brewing company makes a beer called the MO pale ale. Those are two beers that I’m really excited about.