tongue-tied lightning

The Best Films of 2011: #15 Cold Weather

Watching Quiet City back in 2008 it seemed to me that Aaron Katz was the one mumblecore director that had the skill set required to rise above that milieu (little did I know Mark Duplass would beat him to the punch) and Cold Weather is indicative of that. Its structure is somewhat telling on that front. Beginning with a relatively standard mumblecore set-up, Doug (Quiet City’s Cris Lankenau) is suffering the kind of quarter-life crisis you’d be temped to call post-graduate ennui if he hadn’t dropped out, the inklings of a detective story begin to arise almost organically, as a way of giving his life purpose.

It could also be read as its director progressing beyond the mumblecore aesthetic but perhaps that’s reading too much into things. Katz seems to be having fun with many of the more prevalent tropes in detective fiction. As Doug works his way through the mystery we encounter shady motel rooms, an internet porn ring, a briefcase full of money and a man in a cowboy hat. These are rendered in a very down to earth way giving the film an off-kilter tone that is in tune with it’s wonderful if excruciatingly dry sense of humor. Much of which arises from Doug’s self-doubt in his abilities as an investigator, wondering if smoking a pipe would help him think better and engaging in amusing exchanges like ‘I think we should have pistachios, isn’t that what people do on stakeouts?’ ‘I don’t know.’ ‘Yeah, we should have pistachios.’

Katz has a strong eye for imagery, as evinced in Quiet City, and if anything it’s improved here, working again with cinematographer Andrew Reed. He has a rare ability to make seemingly benign images like a character sleeping on the sofa as his cell phone rings on the floor stick with you months after seeing the film, and an acute sense of place; even next to recent films like Paranoid Park and Wendy and Lucy his vision of Portland seems especially well realized. Cold Weather also re-teams him with composer Keegan DeWitt who’s provided the film with one of the most unique scores of the year, sounding reminiscent of Jon Brion taking on David Shire. I feel like Aaron Katz is on the verge of making a really special film and I’m excited to hear he intends to make his next one in the great city of Pittsburgh.


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