Friday, May 22, 2009

Young American Bodies: Season 1

Unidentifiable Effing Objects /
Young American Spirits

I'm fulfilling a contract with myself here. Notes on the now-three-years-old first season of Joe Swanberg's web-serial. You can figure out how to find it if you want to watch it...

For Swanberg, there can be no right way to frame them for Nerve/, these UFOs. The imposition of dramatic heft at the moment of incidental music cues. Just have the characters talk about willpower, and in their talking pretend the feelings don't count. "You build yourself a structure," says Casey / Eve Rounds, the moral conscience of the show.

"A lot of my friends are going out with me, tonight, to a club, and I just wanted to invite you to come." "Okay..." — cut to Greta Gerwig, etc.

"You can go online, you can find your bed-and-breakfasts..."

The stairwell communal space is the Sign of the Dorm. It spills over no matter how many years you're out of the institution, because you'll keep building others, your own, to recapture. "You want to tell me what happened last night?" All of life is a fort.

And here's the word: "Fine." Even still there are others. And I'm glad I'm not 23 anymore.

Things presented via the word "they" as universals. But there's a gigantic divide between what's filmed, or narrativized, and what's actual. The sincerity of Ben/Swanberg pulls this apart. Every 'serial episode' here carries the danger and the step-to and step-back of a modern and early-twentysomething Eyes Wide Shut. "Communication's... what you don't have."

"I think so..." — Picking up from the sedimented balls-of-feet of Kissing on the Mouth. "I dunno, he really wants to, y'know?"

Free-jazz-like disasters and general vacuity make me throw up. And then you get a sense that human beings still care for each other —

"I want to do whatever it takes to make it work." You get tenderness, and perfect teeth.

"It's so crazy that people are starting to get married. ... It's like, adult. ... I guess I didn't think that I would be... that, that I would be, last... y'know... not like I'm sure I'd be last, but I guess I never thought..."

Theme-music cue-cut as self-dramatization of importance of totally transitory events. Swanberg cuts OUT of an episode the same way you can drop a chapter-stop at any random point in the drama of life's goings-on — really, everything has meaning.

Missed connections — followed by communication and discussion. Completely unlike the Hollywood movies where everything is irrevocable and "fate"-driven.

"I think it's definitely awesome that you guys are hanging out, I think it's really good for him." "Yeah, I'm a good influence, on everyone." "Not that he's like lame or anything — he's totally cool."

"Hey Casey, it's Ben, um... soooo... yeah, um, shoot, I was hopin' to talk to you, but um call me back, when you can, I want to make sure that whatever's going on, it doesn't get in the way of us hanging out and spending time together, because, I really like that... So... umm... hopefully I hear from you soon — and, if, oh actually maybe I hear you on the stairs right now, so, um, maybe I, will, see you in a second?, and if not, then, call me back?, when you can? Okay. Talk to you soon."

Jealousy'ish movement-things. It'll be okay. Just stop by.



No eyeline countergaze dénouements. Swanberg cuts at the end of the last episode before the eyeline takes hold. Noble ending to the season, inside-out version of a Sopranos season-end, — and very strong for the fact.

Young American Bodies: Season 1 by Joe Swanberg, 2006:


Something different (put it in your heart where tomorrow shines) —

Social Olympics from Craig Keller on Vimeo.



  1. The "stairwell communal space" bit might be the most relevant assessment of the motivations behind Swanberg's characters, and the general stimulus of the m'core/new American cinema movement in general.

    In all red-faced honesty, I most likely would never have discovered Swanberg's work if it wasn't for your recent posts. So thanks!

  2. prior to or right after seeing alexander the last (march/april?) i took 2 days to watch all seasons of YAB. Glorious. Better than any of his features, though Alexander is a step in a more exciting direction (the scene with the sisters over -articulating a fairy tale, while bookending the negligent male in particular).
    You are right to point out the intro/theme music. I think it's the perfect hint of pathos and presentation and narrative, though maybe that's the only place to find it.


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