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November 12, 2010

Starz Denver Film Festival 2010 - Cold Weather

Cold Weather.jpg

Aaron Katz - 2010
IFC Films

Recently at Glenn Kenny's blog, "Some Came Running", Glenn ran a series of screen caps under the heading of "Mumblecore or Murder, She Wrote?". I didn't pay attention to the comment about Cold Weather at the time. Sometime later, when starting to sift through the films I wanted to cover at the SDFF, I was reminded that this is the newest film by Aaron Katz, a filmmaker given the mumblecore label. I liked Katz's earlier features, Quiet City and especially Dance Party, U.S.A. enough to take a look at his new film.

Genre labels short change this film. The initial premise is one that on the face of it seems generic, with a young man, dropping out of college where he studied forensics, working at an ice factory in Portland, Oregon. The young man, Doug, lives with his sister, Gail, hangs out with his co-worker, Carlos, and starts seeing his former girlfriend, Rachel. Nothing much happens between going to work, meeting at coffee houses, or going to a night club where Carlos has an occasional DJ gig. Carlos starts getting together with Rachel, until one night when Rachel seems to have mysteriously disappeared.

The fictional detective invoked here is Sherlock Holmes. In one of the film's lighter moments, Doug goes pipe shopping, hoping that smoking like the famed literary character will assist in his own powers of deduction. Of course it doesn't work that way. Later Doug pursues a shady character with a briefcase full of money. Or at least that's what is assumed to be in the briefcase. There is some mystery, and scenes of Doug and Gail unraveling a secret code. Still, the mystery aspect to Cold Weather is not entirely resolved as it would be in a more traditional narrative.

While the film is ultimately about Doug's relationship with Gail, it is also Aaron Katz's love letter to Portland. Only a person who really loves a city would take a cinematic journey all over town, not only in the more industrial and more out of the way places, but also into The Dalles and Cannon Beach. There are some picturesque moments, a scene of Doug and Gail gazing onto the Pacific Ocean, whale watching although no whales appear, and a shot of of neon illuminated Bagdad Theater at night. One striking shot is a slow zoom of Doug and Gail at a bridge by a waterfall.

It should be noted that this is a very handsome looking film, shot with the video RED camera. Katz works again with Chris Lankenau as Doug, but I suspect that it will be Trieste Kelly Dunn, the actress who plays Gail, who will be gaining more professional attention. The film score, by Keegan DeWitt, mostly guitar and a couple of other instruments which to my ears seems to incorporate Indonesian gamelan instruments, is quite inventive. For brief moments, there is just a touch of Bernard Herrmann during the more suspenseful moments. That the film has been picked up by IFC indicates the potential for wider exposure of this film. Where Aaron Katz will go from here is unknown, although this interview may offer some suggestions.

(Viewed as DVD screener)

Posted by peter at November 12, 2010 07:57 AM