Cold Weather (2010)

2 07 2011

Aaron Katz once again proves he’s at the very top of the pyramid when it comes to young American filmmakers. This gentle and beautiful pseudo-thriller should be enough proof that he’s far more mature than his mumblecore peers. His slight crossover into genre works perfectly as the film never seemed to be particularly jarring as a relationships movie that quickly becomes a mystery. In a way, this is what that terrible movie Brick should have been, a reflection on genre that doesn’t have to sacrifice any sense of realism. Katz has done something that very few have accomplished since the heyday of genre filmmaking in the 1940s and 50s – he has put his story in a world that we can recognize as our own and it is lovely to watch.

I don’t want this review to ultimately dissolve into a comparison of Brick because one, I quite frankly don’t care about that movie and two, it seems like it would be a disservice to Katz. Still, look at the way Cold Weather opens. A very subdued family dinner, nothing really “dramatic” or “intense.” In fact, the film never really gets into that territory. Brick immediately thrusts the viewer into a world that is modern but filled with people talking like characters in a Howard Hawks movie. In truth, I’d think Katz’s vision is probably closer to the mold of someone like Hawks or Ford even though he’s not studying and replicating their footprints like Rian Johnson. The fact of the matter is, Katz is able to ground his film by having a (seemingly) close-knit cast and the photogenic gloominess of Portland, Oregon as his backdrop.

One of the many strengths in Katz’s previous film, Quiet City was the way it obviously alluded towards Katz’s artier influences but still kept something that was distinctively apart of the “young adult” experience in modern day America. This might just be an elaborate workaround for using “hipster” on my part, but the point still remains, Katz draws from an influences as well as he manages to create some completely organic and new. The “pillow shots” of his previous film were a nod to Ozu, but here they seem to have progressed into something that belongs to Katz himself, not just a tribute. Again, it helps that what is being photographed is something that is just so intrinsically American. The images feel fresh and new, even while being guided through Katz’s already well established aesthetic.

It probably says something of Katz’s intentions that the mystery is essentially “solved” with still somewhere around 20 to 30 minutes left in the film. This seems weird, especially since we’re never given any closure in that time. Instead, the film’s final stretch makes it seem more like being a movie about a brother-sister relationship, which seems to be one of the relationships that has been given the least amount of serious attention in cinema. It’s easy for me to gravitate towards this because one, my sister and I are extremely close and two, Trieste Kelly Dunn is insanely beautiful in this movie. It’s actually sort of disconcerting since it is suppose to be a brother-sister complex and I couldn’t accept that she (nor any other character in the film) was going to be the object of romantic longings.

This is all a good thing, though. It’s a movie by a young American about young people and there’s no point in which stock feelings come into play. In other words, it feels authentic and that is more important than one would think in a genre film. While Katz hasn’t  done quite enough to put him up with say, Nicholas Ray, but he has made one of the most artistic and enjoyable genre films in a long time. Considering his monetary restrictions, it would be an understatement to call this an accomplishment.

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