Katz’s “Quiet City” A Quiet Triumph.

Official Theatrical Poster
Not Rated, 78 minutes, Benten Films

A sophomore full-length effort that truly lives up to the promise of its maker’s debut, Aaron Katz’s Quiet City is a simple and gorgeous little film filled with the small moments of everyday life that are often put aside in mainstream American cinema. The overall premise that Katz put in place for the movie is a perfect and most realistic one to make, considering the budget of nothing that he had going for him. In his first film, a project with bits of brilliance called Dance Party, USA, Katz mildly expressed interest calm, almost meditative shots of certain vacant portions of the city, both inner and outer, and the vast differences between day and night. In Dance Party he was working with the surroundings of Portland, Oregon, and for Quiet City he shifts across the entire country, to Brooklyn, New York where we are treated to a wonderful marriage of both patient nature shots and handheld conversation photography as Katz and cinematographer Andrew Reed share a mutual eye for what was trying to be accomplished. The film begins and ends with Keegan DeWitt’s subtle keyboard scoring wonderful subway photography. Erin Fisher plays Jamie, a twentysomething from Atlanta who has just arrived to see her good friend for the first time in a long while. Trouble is, her friend is not answering her phone and all Jamie has is the name of a cafe where they were supposed to meet. It is so late at night that the subway area is as bare as it could be, with only one other person roaming its tunnels. Jamie asks this person, named Charlie (played by Cris Lankaneau), if he could give her directions to the cafe. This is where the first of countlessly realistic, awkward, and just easy to relate to dialogs begin between the two. Charlie is stuttering in his explanation of the location of the cafe, so he decides to just walk her there.

Jamie’s friend never shows up to the cafe, but Charlie stays with her in case she were to be without a place to go. There is an uneasy manner to the way Charlie approaches the inevitable proposal of her spending the night at his apartment, but it’s not the sort of awkwardness that is uncomfortable, not for the characters nor for us the viewer, it’s exactly the opposite. In an interview with the cast and crew at the New York premier, it is told that although the script reached well over 100 pages it was still essentially an outline that served as a jumping point for the actor’s to improvise with, which is why both Fisher and Lankeneau are credited along with Katz as co-writers. Choosing not to work strictly by the script was the major reason why Quiet City resonated with me long after it was over. There is never anything but a sense of real-life to every inch of the movie, because that’s exactly what it is and it understands that it shouldn’t step away from it. We are treated to tiny vignettes of Jamie and Charlie’s 24-hour excursion through various areas of Brooklyn, conversations that are arguably about random nothingness but mean absolutely everything to the moment, the time, the people, and ultimately the world of the film. Katz and the aforementioned Andrew Reed do more with the streets, sunsets, parks and subways of Brooklyn than they did with Dance Party‘s green Oregon, and coupled with a perfectly fitting DeWitt score, they manage to successfully cast the landscapes as a co-lead itself.

I had heard a lot of good things about Katz over the last year, and getting the Cassavetes Award nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards sort of automatically put his name up there with the “bigs of the small”, often hearing his name alongside Joe Swanberg’s (Hannah Takes the Stairs), who happens to appear in the movie in a small but memorable performance, as an odd fellow who thinks cole slaw is vastly under appreciated. I am happy that I have finally gotten around to seeing both of Katz’s films, and although I can’t say I liked Dance Party, USA, I knew this guy was on the brink of creating something special. That something special came very quick. It’s called Quiet City, and it’s beautiful.

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