Review: ‘Art History’

Future art historians may use Joe Swanberg's latest to illustrate the paucity of ideas and means in the 2010s.

There’s neither art nor history in Joe Swanberg’s “Art History,” though future art historians may use it to illustrate the paucity of ideas and means in the 2010s. Set in a single locale during the shooting of a sex scene, the helmer’s third feature of 2011 is more no-frills than usual, replete with moribund angles, fuzzy focus and low lighting: It’s like watching an episode of “Big Brother” where the contestants are selected for their beigeness. Screened together in Berlin with the slightly more complex “Silver Bullets,” the pic won’t find action outside streaming sites.

Thesps Juliette (Josephine Decker) and Eric (Kent Osborne) have an intense love scene to perform for helmer Sam (Swanberg). The intimacy results in feelings similar to those of their characters, creating awkwardness for all three since Juliette and Sam are an item. Presumably Swanberg is again shooting what he knows, but the camera’s torpor is reflective of his inability to invest anything here with genuine emotion or meaning. Long and passionless nude scenes — an endless closeup of Decker’s nipple will annoy even a fetishist — are as wearying as the dim yet unatmospheric light.

Art History


A Swanberry Prods. production. Produced by Joe Swanberg. Executive producer, Kent Osborne. Directed, edited by Joe Swanberg. Screenplay, Swanberg, Josephine Decker, Kent Osborne.


Camera (color, HD), Adam Wingard, Swanberg. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 12, 2011. Running time: 74 MIN.


Josephine Decker, Joe Swanberg, Kent Osborne, Adam Wingard, Kris Swanberg.

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