The movement that doesn’t want to be known as “mumblecore” has been maligned for its focus on privileged, white twentysomethings (though to this charge, I’d argue that most American films focus on privileged, white something-or-others). Nevertheless, I’ve been quite taken by many of these modest proposals in the past (The Puffy Chair, Hannah Takes the Stairs, Mutual Appreciation, Humpday), encountering numerous moments of genuine recognition amidst its descriptions of awkwardness, aloofness, aloneness; which is to say, as something of a disclaimer, I don’t have a bone to pick with mumblecore, and I’ve found the level of vitriol directed at it by some critics outsized. Dance Party, USA and Quiet City established Aaron Katz as a member of the movement, and the latter film in particular distinguished itself from the pack by striving for an aesthetic appeal in a genre noted for being devoid of such concerns. Yet though Katz has a more developed eye, his ear and feel for naturalistic conversational rhythms—the bread and butter of mumblecore—are less so. Dance Party, USA was impressively assured for a first-time feature filmmaker, but Quiet City, though more visually eloquent, seemed to be inarticulate itself rather than an illustration of inarticulateness, a failing likely due in part to casting.
The same goes for Katz’s acclaimed new film, Cold Weather, which, as usual, takes as its locus a group of twentysomethings scrambling to define their relationships with one another, but then, in a gambit not dissimilar to Mark and Jay Duplass’s incorporation of horror notes into Baghead, the film segues into something more suspenseful. Cold Weather opens on an abstracted and slightly eerie image, still and focused on the raindrops flecking a window onto some unidentifiable scene, only pulled into clarity at the end of the credit sequence and revealed to be an ordinary courtyard of an apartment complex. This deftly manages to conjure an almost subconscious sense of foreboding, nicely foreshadowing the thriller turn the seemingly placid production will take. Although it contains a few more such sublime discrete moments, the following film in full doesn’t live up to the evocative elegance of this intro. Read Portland’s own Reverse Shotter Kristi Mitsuda’s review of Cold Weather