' Cinema Romantico: Quiet City

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quiet City

The fact a film like "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" gets major attention and significant promotion and a nationwide release because of its cast and its fancy-pants locations and so on and so forth even though it's awful while a beautiful, elegant, marvelous film like "Quiet City" drifts so far beneath the radar I probably never would have even seen it had I not been aimlessly browsing Netflix and stumbled upon it makes me want to go out to the parking lot and hurl blood.


I mention "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" because, well, it and Aaron Katz's "Quiet City" (yet another great movie from 2007) share some things in common, though "Quiet City" takes place over a night, a day and a night rather than just a night. But whereas the former felt endless, the latter feels timeless.

I feel I should step out of the review for just a second and offer the following disclaimer: "Quiet City" was engineered for a person like me. It's as if someone asked me what kind of movies I wish there were more of and then that someone went off and made this one. So please keep that in mind.

The film takes the standby mantra "nothing happens" to new heights. At the start we see a plane taking flight and then we're on the NYC subway and we watch out the window as the sights roll by...and roll by...and roll by. Slam bang opening? Eh, not so much. Stay with it. Have (oh God, oh God, not that word, damn it, we're Americans!!!) patience.

Jamie (Erin Fisher) has flown to New York to see a friend. They are to meet at a diner. She doesn't know where it is. She sees a guy named Charlie (Cris Lankenau) and asks him. He starts telling her but decides it is best if he just takes her. But Jamie's friend is not there. So Charlie waits with her. Still her friend does not show. Charlie, ever the gentleman, invites Jamie back to her place to wait until she makes contact. She stays the night. They hang out the next day. They end up at the art show of a friend of Jamie's.

These are the things that happen. So, you know, nothing, though as Jerry of "Seinfeld" (the man who made "nothing happens" famous) once noted "even nothing is something." Yes, it is, and then there is plenty of something in the poetic stillness of "Quiet City". A whole damn lot of it, actually.

The dialogue is as unrelentingly lifelike as I have ever witnessed. Seriously, if someone watches this movie and then opines "Who talks like that in real life?" I don't want to waste even a single breath arguing. I'll wave the white flag. I'll simply nod and then go home and bash my head against the wall for two hours. The conversations of Jamie and Charlie are peppered with stops and starts and moments of searching for the right word and sometimes finding it and sometimes not. Words and phrases such as "like" and "you know" and "um" are used frequently. I love that in a way the italics does not express.


We receive only the teeniest-tiniest glimpses into the private lives and circumstances of Jamie and Charlie and that is precisely as it should be for it allows us to see them as they see each other. Hmmm, you think. That's interesting, but don't follow up too much more because maybe that would just ruin it, right?

The summation that jumped to mind when the movie concluded was Neo Realism For My Generation. But that's not right. It's less about story, more about image. Since seeing it I have read where others termed it as being like Terrence Malick. I like that even more. Terrence Malick For My Generation. "Days Of Heaven" For My Generation. I liked it better then "Days Of Heaven". A lot better. Yes, I did. Roll with me or not, doesn't matter. The movies like "Quiet City" are the ones for which I wait, ceaselessly, and when they arrive, so help me God, I will revel in them.

There is one moment of particularly staggering beauty that left me with my fondest Unforced Smile in quite awhile. Our two main characters along with another girl and guy hang out in an apartment participating in a little Dance Party U.S.A. We don't hear the music they are dancing to, though, we hear the sweet, simple score of the soundtrack and watch them dance. This goes on far longer than any studio-made motion picture would ever allow for fear of....what? Who the hell knows? It conjured up a line from a very similar film: "The poetry of day to day life."

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