Tag Archives: joe swanberg

Swanberg on Mazursky

Joe Swanberg (left), and the director of his favourite film, Paul Mazursky (right)
Joe Swanberg (left), and the director of his favourite film, Paul Mazursky (right)

Funny story: we had some informal talks with the Melbourne International Film Festival earlier this year about possibly doing a show in conjunction with them, much like our live Sydney Film Festival show in June. For various reasons, we were unable to make it work, and so we set about pursuing some of the other names on our overly-long wishlist of guests.

Joe Swanberg, director of last year’s outstanding Drinking Buddies, immediately agreed to be on the show. We were pretty excited about this, and started organising a time to record the US-based filmmaker via Skype.

“I will be in Melbourne in August for the film festival,” he replied. “Can we do it then?”

So, entirely by accident, we ended up doing a show with MIFF. The festival was excellent about our accidental booking of their guest, and slotted us in to Joe’s press schedule. He was out here to introduce and promote his latest film, Happy Christmas, starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Lena Dunham and himself.

At first, we thought his choice of Paul Mazursky might have been a sentimental one given Mazursky had passed away only a month earlier, but interviews such as this one from January of this year proved that Joe has been extolling the virtues of Mazursky’s films all along.

For us, Mazursky’s filmography hit at just the right time. After several months of being neck-deep in Robert Altman films, we were feeling massive Altman withdrawal symptoms at Hi4H HQ. So it was fitting to find Mazursky’s films – particularly his early ones – had a real Altmanesque feel to them: long, observational takes and a strong focus on performance, not to mention a roster of Atlman actors including Elliott Gould, Donald Sutherland, George Segal and Michael Murphy. That’s not to suggest Mazursky was just Altman Lite; he definitely had a style all his own. The work he did throughout the 1970s feels so groundbreaking and original and exciting, it’s difficult to understand why so many of his films have slipped out of the conversation.

Joe had a chance to talk with Mazursky on stage and the insight he brings to a filmmaker whose name should be as fondly remembered as all the greats of the 1970s is incredible.

If you haven’t seen any Paul Mazursky films, check out our cheat sheet here, then listen to the latest episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates.

Thanks to the Melbourne International Film Festival for their wonderful assistance, and to Joe Swanberg for his generosity.

Paul (left), Joe (middle) and Lee (right) recording the episode of 7 August 2014 in Melbourne

Hell Is For Hyphenates – August 2014

US indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg (Drinking Buddies, Happy Christmas) joins the Hyphenates for our August 2014 edition, as we talk over the new releases of the past month, look at whether independent filmmakers can forge a career in the new media landscape, and check out the filmography of the influential and underrated director Paul Mazursky.

The Mazursky Cheat Sheet

Paul Mazursky

Early last year, we abandoned our original system whereby we wouldn’t announce the guest or the filmmaker they were discussing until the day the podcast was out. On the urging of some of our listeners, we decided to change it up and announce both guest and filmmaker nearly a month before the episode launched. That way, anyone who wanted to play along at home could watch the works of our filmmaker-of-the-month and have a whole month to catch themselves up, much in the same way we ourselves do.

This isn’t always practical. Even our most committed listeners probably wouldn’t be able to marathon all of, say, Billy Wilder or Robert Altman’s filmography in time, so we’ve come up with a new idea. About a week or so before Hyphenates comes out, we’re going to suggest a double feature that encapsulates the essential spirit of the filmmaker. Two films you can easily watch on a Friday night in order to get a good sense of the director we’ll be talking about.

So with the Paul Mazursky episode only a few days away, here are a couple of films you might want to seek out over the weekend.

PM Films

BOB & CAROL & TED & ALICE (1969) and MOSCOW ON THE HUDSON (1984)

Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is the main reason we’re talking about Mazursky. In the upcoming episode, guest Joe Swanberg reveals that Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice is his favourite film of all time, and talks about the influence it had on Swanberg’s biggest hit, 2013’s Drinking Buddies. Bob & Carol was Mazursky’s first ever film, and was a critical and commercial hit. To understand Mazursky’s career, this film is essential. Then, to get a feeling for where he went next after his amazing run of 1970s zetigeist-capturing comedy-dramas, watch 1984’s Moscow on the Hudson, about a Russian circus performer (Robin Williams) who experiences life outside of Soviet Russia during a fateful trip to New York. It’s broader and glossier than his earlier work, but still an interesting work, and a good indication of how Mazursky’s style progressed.

Substitutions: If you can’t get Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, try An Unmarried Woman (1978). If you can’t get Moscow on the Hudson, try Down and Out In Beverly Hills (1986).

The Hidden Gem: Want to add in one of Mazursky’s lesser-known films, one that (in our humble opinion) ranks amongst his best despite never being discussed? Try Tempest (1982), his loose, modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s final play, with John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Susan Sarandon, Raul Julia, and, in her first ever film, Molly Ringwald.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Joe Swanberg talking Paul Mazursky, will be released on the morning of August 31.