27 septembre 2007
Aaron Katz's Quiet City is a very, very small film. Like his characters, it seems content to make small statements that barely hint at their real meaning. It's a disservice to Katz to compare his style to Malick, as has been done. I don't see that much in common, filmically, except that this film is sporadically very, very beautiful. Katz is interested in the specific placement of characters in a physical environment, but his methods - and moods - are very different than Malick's. I'm not sure how to describe the differences - perhaps they are ones of scale. Quiet City mostly succeeds in its minor ambitions.
Quiet City is a key film for understanding the Mumblecore attitude toward narrative and filmmaking. It spends most of its 78 minute runtime with only two characters. Their relationship builds but never gathers momentum; it simply simmers. This simmering, this observation of people as they are, is less sparse than it sounds. QC has moments of beauty that flower in and around their quotidian wanderings, but the film ambles a bit too much, while lacking direction (as the characters also do). If the characters are afraid to create tension for fear of expectations that will lead to disappointment, the film follows suit, limiting our ability for deep emotional investment.
Quiet City is, on one level, a Mumblecore romantic comedy. Jamie and Charlie have moments of meet-cute - necessarily delayed by their insecure beginning. These moments are hugely understated, and feel honest and real rather than necessary (see: Eric Rohmer on verisimilitude and the necessary). Their moments of romance are so slight as to be missed under the sound of your popcorn (I consider that high praise). Some moments in the film are absolutely stunning: the race-running in the clip above, the falling asleep on the subway that can be seen in the trailer below. The film is beautiful also in its sense of place and the way the characters interact with Brooklyn. It's exciting also to see a low-budget independent American film use "pillow shots" for pace and for creating a sense of magic and beauty.
Still, the pillow shots sometimes seem a bit too disconnected from the narrative; the scenes containing other characters distract us from the relationship between Jamie and Charlie; there were too-few moments of beauty - perhaps pillow shots included - to interrupt the monotony of the real dialogue and interaction.
Rohmer's exploration of the tension between “verisimilitude” and “the necessary” is particularly apt here; Quiet City, more so even than most Mumblecore features, relies too much on the former while infusing too little of the latter. I don't think these two things are mutually exclusive, even in the same words - anyone aware of my current project has heard me talk about this - but it's very difficult to sustain any level of fusion between these two 'types' of writing. Katz succeeds intermittently; when he does, he achieves greatness, but this great success happens only intermittently.
If I sound ambivalent in this writeup, it's only because I am. Quiet City is a very good film, but not a great one. The seeds of greatness are in it, though - and a movie made with this much ambition, by someone with passion for making a movie, by a true amateur, is something to be commended.
Reading back over this, this seems like notes for a review, but I'll let you fill in the blanks. Perhaps that's appropriate.
The subway stop in the opening scene is my subway stop.