' Cinema Romantico: Cold Weather

Monday, March 21, 2011

Cold Weather

If the third feature film of Aaron Katz (writer/director/editor) does not feel or look like a major statement, well, this is precisely the reason it is one. Filmed digitally, it also looks and feels simple, the sort that might acquire that played out label of "nothing happens," except, if you're paying attention, everything happens. "Cold Weather" is deceptively complex. It's really quite awe-inspiring. It's truly the first great movie of 2011.

Doug (Cris Lankenau) has just moved back home to Portland, Oregon and moved in with his sister Gail (Trieste Kelly Dunn). We catch up with them initially having dinner with their parents. The conversation is unforced, though simultaneously it sets up events for later. Doug had gone to college to study forensics science but has since dropped out. He speaks vaguely of a possible return but quickly changes the subject when it's broached. Gail mentions her new office job. She says she likes it. We are unconvinced.


Doug takes a job in an ice factory. He makes a friend there, Carlos (Raul Castillo), a part-time dee jay at a club. They bond over the stories of Sherlock Holmes, which Doug loves. Not the movies, mind you, with Basil Rathbone, but the books. Doug's ex-girlfriend, Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), flies into town from Chicago for some kind of training seminar and she and Doug get together. And then she and Doug and Gail and Carlos get together. The movie is just sort of meandering, not uninterestingly, along at its own pace. We wonder if, perhaps, there is still a spark between Doug and Rachel or if maybe Carlos has a flicker for Rachel? We note the kind but boring sibling bond between Doug and Gail.

Then Carlos turns up at Doug's one night, late, harried, saying Rachel was supposed to come to his dee jaying gig but never showed. He went to her hotel room. The lights were on but she didn't answer the door. He drags Doug there and they snoop around. Where did she go? And to what purpose?

Doug and Carlos work together to crack the case. And then Doug and Gail work together to crack the case. It's kind of a lo-fi Sherlock Holmes with Watson switching actors (and sexes) midstream. Oh, some of it is a stretch, no doubt, but it's so non chalant it how it goes about what it's about that it works. I was tempted to write something to the effect of: Cris Lankeanu is no Robert Downey Jr., sure, but Robert Downey Jr. is no Sherlock Holmes when compared to Cris Lankenau. You sense the film is a sly nudging in the audience's ribs. A Hollywood riff. But it's not. It's really, truly not.

I want to discuss "Cold Weather's" finest asset without revealing too much, though, make no mistake, there is no traditional lame "twist" to give away here, and so I will proceed cautiously. This is a film that develops over the course of its entire running time. After thirty or forty minutes you sense you have a handle on its shape and where it's going and then it flips and so then you think have a handle except then it flips again. These changes in attitude are not massive and won't shake the earth. They are in tune with the film's tone.


There is one utterly extraordinary scene where Doug and Gail are staking out a guy in a cowboy hat who is in possession of a briefcase full of money - don't ask, but you needed the context - when, suddenly, Gail starts telling Doug, poignantly, about her slightly pitiful love life. At first you think, "What is this scene doing here?" It seems out of place. But that goes back to the beginning of the review - nothing is out of place. Partially it's Katz reminding us - like he reminded us for those first 30 or 40 minutes - that these are real people caught up in an absurd situation. But it ends up being even more.

I cannot even hope to recall the last movie I saw that revealed itself to me in full in the final frame. It's not the conclusion we are conditioned to expect because of all the inane, forced, overlong finales we as audiences have endured over the years and, briefly, it may feel perfunctory but it's not because in that very moment, which seems so small, but looms so large, we grasp implicitly the film's true intent. I was flabbergasted, overcome with giddiness and ecstasy, blown away. Perfect. Just.........perfect.

Not since Sofia Coppola have I fallen so head-over-heels for a new filmmaker. Aaron Katz's "Quiet City" (2007) mesmerized me but this is just a whole other level. It might be an indie and it might have handheld shots and a little bit of shaky cam but, really, he's a classical filmmaker, willing and unafraid to frame a shot and leave it alone. More importantly, he trusts his story. He's not gonna rush. Not for me, you, or anyone. I'm fairly certain you couldn't make "Cold Weather" in Hollywood because they would speed it up and dumb it down. That's why I yearn the bright lights never get ahold of this guy. He's too good.

2 comments:

Film Intel said...

Firstly, loved reading that. Secondly, I'm now completely intrigued. It comes out in April here but I imagine it won't be a wide release. I'm already looking forwards to the DVD in May.

Nicholas Prigge said...

Thank you very much. If you have enjoyed his other work I can only imagine you will really dig this one. I can't express - I tried - how happy I was when it ended.