I’ve long felt that Swanberg, who has often employed a hand-held video camera and doesn’t tinker too much with lighting, hasn’t gotten enough credit for the expressivity of his camera work—his attention to color, to shadow, to framings, to glaring touches of color that heighten an emotion. It’s also true that his attention to these matters, over the years, hasn’t always been equal, and, paradoxically, some of his best work (such as “Hannah Takes the Stairs”) is far more devoted to character and performance than to the visual world that his actors inhabit. But “LOL,” from 2006, is a joy to look at, and, certainly starting with “Alexander the Last,” released here in 2009, Swanberg has extended, with a little video camera and not much in the way of a crew, the range of cinematographic experience beyond what even the most daring Hollywood directors, and, for that matter, most other independent filmmakers, are willing to attempt. And in this regard these two new films bring his artistry to a new and remarkable level.
- Richard Brody