' ' Cinema Romantico: Quiet City: Dance Sequence

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Quiet City: Dance Sequence

Before I say anything let me preface this by making it clear that I like Terrence Malick's "The Tree Of Life" very much. For about an hour, maybe less, maybe more, I might go so far as to say I loved it. And if that makes me a cinematic snob, then it makes me a cinematic snob, but also bear in mind "Salt" was my #3 movie of 2010. So there.

Anyway, I feel it's important to make that statement because I don't want anyone to think that based on what I'm about to say that I'm some mud-slinging hater of "The Tree Of Life" or Malick in general. I'm definitely not. But when I watch Aaron Katz's "Quiet City" (2007) the more I'm struck by how much it shares with the work of Malick.

Katz belongs to the dreaded Mumblecore movement. I say dreaded because it has earned a reputation of not just being extremely low budget and talky but of being, well, you know the typical adjectives: pretentious, hipsterish, etc. Inevitably, filmmakers deemed to be part of this movement immediately turned their back on the term, people like Joe Swanberg and Andrew Bujalski. Of course, the only reason most people have seen their films is because of the term Mumblecore. But that's a subject for another sermon. (Actually I've given that sermon so never mind.) I saw their films because of Aaron Katz's "Quiet City" and quickly realized I was not a Mumblecore fan. I was a Katz fan. 

Writing about the movement for the esteemed New Yorker David Denby says: "The movies tell stories but they’re also a kind of lyrical documentary of American stasis and inarticulateness." That ably captures a great deal of the Mumblecore movement but I don't think it does justice to the work of Katz. Writing for the London Telegraph about Malick, Tim Robey says this: "Story, though, is frequently the last thing on his mind. His quest for a poetic cinema, threatening to cast off narrative moorings altogether, has aggravated mainstream critics as often as it has earned him disciples."

That's the ticket. That's "Quiet City." Poetic cinema. Casting off those pesky narrative moorings. It might aggravate mainstream critics but I'm a disciple. Two strangers - a young guy and a young girl - Meet Mumblecore-y Cute in New York City and proceed to spend the next couple of days together. That's it. This premise is easy to label as "Before Sunrise", and there are echoes of that masterpiece, sure, but it's far, far less talky than Linklater, and much, much more image-y, like Malick. It does sort of go somewhere, albeit methodically, but it's more interested in pulling the car over at every scenic overlook to breathe in the vistas rather than just hurry along to the destination. Not that the destination isn't worthwhile because it totally is because the last shot of the film is as perfect as this.

And that brings me to the Dance Sequence, cinema of the purest, most perfect kind. I suppose it would do well to explain how and why four characters end up having a dance party in a small Brooklyn apartment but it also wouldn't because, in so many ways, it doesn't necessarily matter. Over and over, throughout, Katz captures these perfect images, sometimes quickly, sometimes lingering, of life just being, you know, lived. And I dunno, maybe it's because my father was the polar opposite of Brad Pitt in "The Tree Of Life" and I didn't grow up in Texas and so on and so forth but I have had dance parties in city apartments with friends and the dance sequence in "Quiet City" speaks to me more deeply and more beautifully than anything in "The Tree Of Life" and, for that matter, than anything in any other Malick movie I've ever seen.

In fact, let's go for broke. Why not? Screw it. Aaron Katz? Are you reading? Put this on the DVD cover. "Quiet City" is better than "The Tree Of Life."

(You can watch the dance sequence here.)


Castor said...

I shall check Quiet City just to see what you are talking about!

Nick Prigge said...

I hope you like it. I truly, truly do.

blahblahblah Toby said...

Nicholas this is quite a wonderful piece on someone who is fast becoming one of my new favourite directors. I shall link to you from my review this week. Between us we may get somebody else to watch it!

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you! So glad to hear you like it too! Certain directors just speak to you and Katz, so far, has spoken to me like only a few others.