Friday, August 19, 2011

Movie Review: Quiet City (2007)

Quiet City, the follow up film from Aaron Katz after his previous mumblecore effort, Dance Party, USA. As mentioned in my review of a few weeks ago, I was enamoured of the mumblecore scene and this seemed like a good place to continue my experience of it.

Quiet City PosterQuiet City follows 24 hours in the life of Jamie and Charlie, two strangers who meet at a New York subway station. She is supposed to meet a friend, who doesn't show. He is a directionless slacker who's been hibernating since his last girlfriend moved states. With nothing but time and nothing to do the pair bond through a series of events culminating in an art gallery after party.

Unlike Dance Party, USA you are not treated to any attempts at emotional growth from these floundering post-teens, Quiet City is more subtle than that. It is however another movie about finding connections with other human beings. Across the awkward 24 hours these two go from being total strangers to perhaps realising that they have found a kindred spirit.

This is nothing new but Katz and his two main actors (both given writing credits presumably for the amount of improvised dialogue contributed) provide no declarations of love, affection, lust or grand set pieces to hang the story arc from, instead we are treated to minute upon minute of "like" and "um" shoved in to every inelegant sentence developing in to much more coherent speech patterns later on as their comfort with each other and themselves increases. The people they meet throughout the day only serve to highlight how important finding the right human connection is and how suited these two actually are for each other.

Quiet City Sunset

Quiet City Coffeeshop

Alan and his Great Movie Project pointed out in the Dance Party, USA review if you have any mid-range hearing issues this type of movie is not for you unless you want to switch on subtitles, as quite regularly the actors cover their mouths with hands whilst they're talking and conversations are nearly drowned out by passing cars etc. I have no doubt that this is an acquired taste in movie aesthetics but in my mind it is a better way to add some realism to a movie than shaky cameras. It gives you that fun eavesdropping feeling you get when you're listening to other customers in shops or "private" conversations on public transport.

Once more the visual aspect of a Katz movie is strong, he used a different director of photography this time but still captured some wonderful shots throughout. A lot of almost still images of natural and man made beauty litter the movie, highlighting the everyday nature/beauty of what we were witnessing between Jamie and Charlie.

Quiet City Park

Quiet City Dance Party

There's a moment of such complete truthfulness at the party, as an old friend of Jamie's has (what feels like) a long monologue about her inability to connect with guys in which she says the word "like" as almost every other word and a few times I swear she says "it was like like I like um." It's a painful to watch moment that caused us to laugh at her throughout but it is a perfect portrayal of the inadequacies felt by this generation as they try to create meaning in/of their lives.

Initially I wasn't as impressed as I was with Dance Party but it's stuck in my mind for days now, I keep thinking about it and wanting to watch it again, which can only be a good thing. Again it's not a film that can appeal to a wide audience but I still think you should see it. It's only 70 minutes afterall. And if that's not enough Nicholas at Cinema Romantico recently touched on how Aaron Katz makes poetic cinema with his review of Quiet City that compared him to none other than cinematic recluse Terrence Malick.

Quiet City Drums

Quiet City Drums

Has anyone seen this one? Have I managed to talk any of you in to exploring mumblecore? Next up is Cold Weather which should tie in nicely with our noir-a-thon too. Leave some blah below.


  1. I am really loving the new style of your reviews Toby. It is a new way of doing it right? with all the screenys? Very BT, very slick!!

    I havent seen this film but you paint quite a picture here with your review and I find it intriguing although I am not sure I would steer from my mainstream rubbish comfort zone long enough to enjoy it!!

    Have a great weekend my buddy!

  2. Custard - whilst I would always encourage people to watch films outside of their comfort zone and I think katz is someone worth paying attention to I'm not sure I would recommend you start here. Buffalo 66 perhaps?

    Its a twofold investment in my reviews. Time and care taken over getting some screens (leahs initial idea) makes them look better. Fact. And somedays more than half my hits have been google images. I'm anticipating a growth cycle. Plus since leah messed with the html to remove the clunky boxes around stuff the pics look better.

  3. Quiet City is my second favourite mumblecore film. There's just something so charming and romantic about it: how little moments here have so much more emotional resonance than the overblown romances that populate multiplexes. I very much want to see Katz's latest, but we here in Ireland aren't treated to indie releases all that regularly!

    Get on to Funny Ha Ha ASAP! It's the film that truly cemented my love of mumbling.

  4. TCG- I know I'm very lucky to get indie cinema in perth, growing up in the uk I never saw anything until it made it to dvd. Are you talking about cold weather as his new one?

    Its interesting you say that about funny haha as most people who I've read talk about katz as the standout movie maker from the 'scene' obviously the duplass brothers have gotten slightly more mainstream and I should get around to seeing cyrus as its readily available but I'm struggling to find a lot of them.