2010 has not been a great movie year for me (mainly at the theater). I left the theater feeling disatisfied so many times that I actually started wondering if my love for film was dying out. So it was a relief to watch Quiet City because I felt more than satisfied—excited, even—after watching it. So I wanted to start this thread just to talk with others about it. (You know how you see a film you really like, and you have the desire to talk to others who liked it, too?….Of course, as always, I welcome dissenting opinions, civil, and hopefully thoughtful, ones at least).
But here are some comments and questions to kick things off:
—Did the film make anyone think of Claude Lelouch’s A Man and A Woman? The scenes with the characters showering, in addition to the shots of them hanging out, made me think of the Lelouch film. Of course, the “romance” in the film is far more restrained.
-Would others describe this films as a romance? It’s a tough call. One of the things I loved about the film was the feeling that between the two leads-it’s one of the mild attractions, the type of feeling behind flirting. Yet, the feeling is a bit stronger in this situation because of the circumstances. It’s a delicate kind of feeling, not something heated like love at first sight or some carnal lust. At the same time, the film also ties this feeling in with something that may be deeper than just flirting—something like the need for human touch and connection. I love all these things about the film, especially the way the filmmaking supports these themes.
I watched parts of this again last night. Some other thoughts.
I heard the two lead actors remark about the low-budget of the film, and that’s definitely the impression I got. Having said that, this makes the film even more impressive and should be an inspiration to aspiring filmmakers. I mean, it’s not a perfect or maybe even a great film, but it shows that you can make a very good with very little resources. In this way, the film is a kind of wonder—similar to films like Carnival of Souls and Blast of Silence—although I think Quiet City is better than both of them.
One of the most important moments in the film comes from a “monologue” from Robin, the artist friend of Jamie. In the actor, commentary Erin Fisher reveals that the director, Aaron Katz, originally planned to have Jamie and Robin to talk about Jamie’s feelings for Charlie, but the director eventually thought that would be too obvious. Fisher (who played Jamie) mentioned that she liked the way commentary about the Jamie and Charlie’s relationship comes from someone outside of that relationship. I completely agree with this, and I also think it is sort of the “center” of the film; what it’s all about. When a speech serves as a kind of “summation” or “explanation” of a film, that often doesn’t work very well. But I really liked it here, particularly for what she said.
Discussion questions/topics when the hoards start coming in here:
Did anyone see any connection with Elvira Madigan. To me, one might be able to make a case that QC is a kind of “Elvira Madigan” of the 2000s. EM (if I recall correctly) seems to be a commentary and cautionary tale about the dangers of idealism and romantic notions of the counter-culture. The film tells that story through a boy-meets-girl kind of structure. QC uses a boy-meets-girl format, but the issue might be more about alienation and the need for some connection. I’m not saying I fully ascribe to this interpretation, but EM did come to mind as I watched this.
you really like this ‘quiet city’ movie.
Is it that obvious? :)
No, seriously. I think it’s a very good movie—especially in relation to the resources that went into it. I know there isn’t many people (many? try one!) participating in the thread, so I just figured I’d use the thread as a repository for my thoughts (especially before I lose them).
Of course, if someone came a long and wanted to discuss this, I’d be raring to go. Could someone be you, Mary?! :)
Seriously, did you see the film?
never really heard about the film till you mentioned it on some other thread about mumblecore or something.
i have seen before sunrise or sunset (which some sources compare that movie to those films). those movies were pretty good. its been a while since i’ve seen them.
Quiet City is good, very good. It’s been a while since I watched it but I appreciated the attention to small details. I’d have to watch it again to really provide any insight to specifics but it’s definitely my kind of film. I wouldn’t call it a masterpiece as it seemed a bit too safe in the romance department but Katz is someone to look out for. Have you seen his latest work, Cold Weather? It doesn’t sound very good to me because it’s a mystery but I don’t expect these kinds of talents to hold out too long while the rent must be paid so I wouldn’t hold it against him.
Well, Quiet City has similarities to the Before Sunrise/Sunset films, but there are some significant differences, too. Just because you liked the latter, doesn’t mean you’ll like the former. I just don’t want you to get the wrong idea. (If you want me to talk more about the differences, let me know, and I’ll be happy to do so. )
I haven’t seen Cold Weather, yet, but, based on this film, I’m interested in seeing it. I have Dance Party USA, so I’ll be seeing that. Did you like that?
Btw, I wouldn’t call this a masterpiece but it is very well done and a small miracle, given the limited resources. What do you mean by “too safe in the romance department?”
An email correspondence between Aaron Katz and Ray Carney *the emails begin a little over halfway down the page.
I watched both Dance Party USA and Quiet City about a year ago and really enjoyed both works. I think Mike is spot on though when he says the films are too safe (a thought that Carney expands upon and Katz seems to understand towards the end of their conversation). Katz’s work, in my opinion, falls short of some of his contemporaries – I’m thinking about the Duplass’ Puffy Chair, Sam Neave’s Cry Funny Happy, the work of Bujalski, and Joe Swanberg just to name a few – who are a bit more daring in their works. Watch a film like David Ball’s Honey and you may have a better understanding of how Katz plays it safe. He has an insightful eye and if he ever decides to play with fire I think he could really make a great work of art. Having said that, Dance Party and Quiet City are both very good films and better than almost anything else being produced in America these days.
I have yet to check out Cold Weather, but the trailer doesn’t look promising. Hopefully that’s not the case because the characters seem similar to the ones Katz talks about in his last email to Carney. Lets hope he keeps his “aversion to anything that even verges on a higher stakes situation”.
Thanks for the link. I read the email, although I try to avoid comments on Dance Party USA, as I haven’t seen that yet. Here’s something Carney said that I wanted to respond to:
Your work is “romantic” in both senses of the word, and it is both its charm and (forgive me!) its limitation. I want to see the parts of the world and the moments in human relationships when the balloon of “romance” gets punctured and falls to earth. I want to see the messy, sloppy, unromantic parts of life. I want to see the misunderstandings, arguments, and hurts that even people in love (and certainly people not in love) inflict on each other and themselves. Your work is set just a few steps outside of that territory. Your characters (lovers and would-be lovers) float just above the ground, up in the air of romantic fantasy and dreams, a few inches above the mud and thorns and sweat of life.
If you, Mike and Carney are saying that the film is not a masterpiece because it doesn’t include the “mud, and thorns and sweat of life,” I have to disagree. I can understand if you all prefer the film to include those elements in to the film, but I don’t think not including them takes away from the aesthetic value and success of the film.
In my view, the film was about something delicate and even airy—namely, that initial of feeling of romantic/sexual attraction—an attraction that may lead to something more substantive and powerful, but hasn’t reached either yet. It also couples that feeling with the feeling of wanting some connection with others—particularly in the form of touch. Both feelings/sensations are delicate and, perhaps, “floating above the ground,” so I think making the film messier might actually detract from the heart of the film. Imo, there are few romantic films that deal with these sensations—particularly in such subtle ways; and that’s what makes the film sublime for me.
I also don’t think the film is “safe.” There is no big drama or really, easy or satisfying ending (at least to mainstream audiences).
Jazz, I’m gonna watch this right now.
Me too! right now – then I’ll watch The Story of Sin and start a discussion thread on a which is better
Cool. The movie is still fresh in my mind, so I should be able to discuss this.
Me too! right now – then I’ll watch The Story of Sin and start a discussion thread on a which is better_
Curse you, Meg-of-clubs! I already have too many films on my list and this is just another that I’m going to have to see. If I bump The Story of Sin up and get some people mad, it’s on you! :)
that is a shamrock Jazz ♥♥ well in my imagination at least
Oh, OK. But Meg-of-Clubs sounded cooler (as in “Curse you! Meg-of-Clubs!”
Well, “Curse you! Meg-of-Shamrocks” is not bad, I guess. :) Btw, I like Jazz (hearts). Cool. I guess, I take back that curse. :)
See Jazz, I think far too many films deal with those sensations in a superficial way. The “floating” feeling exists but the movies pump it up too much and smooth out any contrasting experiences the way a kid’s diary does. i suppose that’s interesting if you have forgotten the simplistic way kids see the world but I prefer the filmmaker to show me what’s going on inside a character without sacrificing the truth of how what goes on outside the character will frequently refuse to float along with them.
Check out So Yong Kim’s In Between Days to see a film that captures the floating without smoothing out the rough spots.
I don’t know of many other films that have distilled romance down to this type of delicate feeling—nor one that couples the feeling with a larger need for human contact. I think I might have mentioned Hsiao-Hsien Hou’s first vignette in Three Times. The ending of that vignette is another that captures that feeling.
And Quiet City doesn’t pump it up or over-romanticize it, either—which is what I like. The characeters are not euphoric in their “love” for each other. They may not even love each other or even have any really strong attraction for each other. There’s an attraction, sure; but it seems pretty mild at this point. That specific state of being, that sensation, imo, is not captured on screen very often—certainly not with the subtlety of this film. Indeed, I think calling this film a “romance” is subject to debate (hence the thread title) precisely because of Katz’s approach. Calling the film a romantic movie is probably going too far.
It’s been too long for specifics but I’m thinking of the camera work. I remember a bit too much lingering and emphasizing, not enough subtlety. Anyway, i like it, just not as much as you:)
Well, if you ever recall the specifics, I’d be interested in hearing them.
WRT camera work, I think there are a bit of moments that draw too much attention to themselves: the one where the two leads run a race (and the camera picks up sun flares); there’s also the scene where the four people are dancing with a simple piano score playing over them. Yes, they’re a bit attention grabbing (as in, “look at this cool sequence”), but I liked them.
I’ll keep So Young Kim’s film in mind.
Here’s the trailer for Katz’s new film. It’s billed as a thriller which puts me right to sleep but it looks like it might be something greater than that. Maybe…
Jazz,Dance Party, USA seemed like a CBS after-school special, with beer.
It was kinda dull, wasn’t it?
Art film: water, people smoking, explicit & gratuitous sex
Quiet City: showers, smoke, people discussing explicit & gratuitous sex
It was kinda funny too: she follows him home and gives him a haircut -
Samson and Delilah? And then the artist explains she can’t have sex with wimps.
This guy Katz has stuff going on, if only Carney doesn’t ruined him.
So I guess the whole look at the delicate attraction between two people, and the simple need for human touch (as Robin, the artist, speaks about) didn’t appeal to you.
Btw, I also thought there were some good comedic moments: the coleslaw scene and the obnoxious guy at the art gallery.
The whole thing about going home with the guy seemed to push the believability, but the cutting the hair scene is pretty flirty and maybe erotic in an subdued way. (The obnoxious guy: “You just met her and she cut your hair?!” Later: “I’ll give you $20 if you find any other guy that goes out with his friend to get a hair cut.”)
delicate attraction between two people
You mean when she was talking about stacking ?
01:08:11 —> 01:08:13Like, this, like, feels really good. Like, I don’t even know you that well.
It just feels really good to, like, be, like, close to someone and stuff.
I didn’t get that she didn’t know him that well, but I guess it is her attempt to “go over the line” and be uninhibited.
I thought this was really relativist and maybe aimed at Jamie:
01:08:28 —> 01:08:31I just sort of felt, like, sort of sad in that moment for, like, people who, like, don’t have, like, that, like, contact ever.
Sort of sexless sub-adolescent banter: people discussing explicit & gratuitous inhibitions
If either of you have the 2-DVD set with both films, you may want to check out the booklet inside. If I remember correctly, Carney wrote a brief essay about the two films.
I plan on watching the both films again in the near future, which will hopefully lead to a more substantive discussion of the film on my part. In response to what you wrote above; I think Katz did a marvelous job with what he was trying to accomplish (which is why I dig the film). My only issue is that I don’t think what he was trying to accomplish (a subtle, nuanced, examination of a budding romance) is as meaningful or insightful as some of the films his contemporaries have made. The upcoming viewings will help me better articulate my problems with the film and like Mike said above, I do like the film, I just don’t think it’s great.
On another note, I should be checking out Cold Weather at the Harvard Film Archive in early March. Hopefully it’s better than the trailer indicates (the fact that there are only a handful of lines of dialogue leads me to think that may be the case).
You’ll have to forgive me, since I’m awful at indicating sarcasm, but I’m curious about your comment on Carney ruining Katz. Are you not a fan of him in general or just not a fan of his take on film?
Oh, and P.S. for Jazz/Robert/anyone who checks out this thread. I’d highly recommend giving Honey a chance. It’s one of the best films I’ve ever come across and truly exemplifies a film that I wouldn’t categorize as “safe”.
Not just that one scene, but the vibe between the two lead characters. We can probaly rule out animalistic lust or love-at-first-sight type of emotions. But there is some level of attraction and, to some extent, affection. It’s like when you meet someone attractive for the first time, you talk and there’s a little flirting that goes on. In this case, the situation—of her being alone in NYC—sustains this feeling and maybe kindles it a bit—but only very little; or at least the filmmakers don’t show us very much. I love that the filmmakers reduce romance to that subtle feeling. It’s delicate, yet kind of nice, too.
Sort of sub-adolescent banter.
(slight spoiler for Hou’s Three Times)
You’re talking about Robin’s “monologue,” right? Well, I found it poignant. First, she talks about the difficulty of her relationships specifically—having trouble being carnal and erotic with someone that she likes on a more intellectual or relational level. I sort of thought of how some people have trouble being comfortable and open with their more animal urges with people they like and respect. Hency, Robin spoke about getting together with a guy that was slightly a jerk.
But then she talks about a time when she felt a strong need to just touch someone—not really in a sexual way—but not entirely absent of sexual sensations, either-but just have someone to touch or hold. It indicates a kind of loneliness, maybe an alienation, but it’s something that we all want. That kind of touch from someone with just a small bit of sexual sensation. Again, I liked this reduction, this distillation of sexual impulses and I liked the way the film aligns this feeling of connection via touch with the delicate feelings of attraction. All of this is brought together by that scene at the end where Jamie puts her head on Charlie’s shoulder. Nice. It’s like the ending of the first vignette in Hou’s Three Times when the two characters hold hands. It’s a small gesture, but very powerful and touching, imo.
Adam you’re a filmmaker – could you ever imagine having a prescriptive conversation like that? Where someone is saying: “no it needs to be more like this” ?
And RC didn’t actually get what was wrong with Dance Party, USA.
If I understand what a non-genre film is supposed to be like….
@ JAzz per Adam:My only issue is that I don’t think what he was trying to accomplish (a subtle, nuanced, examination of a budding romance) is as meaningful or insightful as some of the films his contemporaries have made.
Reading through the subs QC is not that insightful. DP,USA is more insightful regarding attractions.
And it wasn’t, like, really, like, a sexual thing.It was kind of like I was fully clothed, just, like, laying on top of him,
I’m reading the film differently than you are – which is fine. I think Katz caught lots of stuff there, which bodes well for the future.
Robert, I’ll certainly take your assumption of me as a filmmaker as a compliment, unfortunately, I’ve yet to act upon my desires and make a film of my own. Someday your statement will be true, just not yet.
Regarding Carney, I guess we just see things in a different light. Rather than a “prescriptive conversation”, I see Carney’s words more as constructive criticism. Interestingly enough, this isn’t the only time Carney has voiced his reservations to a filmmaker. In his conversation with Matt Porterfield (again, about halfway down the page),he expresses his issues with Porterfield’s first film, Hamilton. In Matt’s reply he seems to have already realized the problems that Carney pointed out. I’ve yet to see his first film, but his latest endeavor, Putty Hill, looks absolutely wonderful.
I thought it was quite perfect as it was, it is not a big film but it is quite special I think. I had no need whatsoever for rough edges or the" messy, sloppy, unromantic parts of life" to present for it to be somehow more. It deals with to me what is a more difficult thing to present and keep afloat, a fledgling space between two complete strangers in a subtle knife edge sort of way. I was anxious about what these two were going to do, fill their time, further their connection within this gentle space without stepping into the next realm of self consciousness/awareness, it was a bit like the metapor of the garden of eden where innocence is allowed to prevail just for a while. So I was anxious for that to be preserved, and how was it going to be preserved? I felt relief when the guy answered the buzzer to his apartment – they’d just been to the park and were sort of shuffling their feet with the “where to next” thing then Charlie had the idea to go get his hat as they were in that neighbourhood and I thought they were going to be put back in that “where to next” space again. I didn’t want the pressure of that on them or their day derailed & their connection threatened with something heavier. Yeah the coleslaw scene was nice:) and the sandwich scene after back at his place.
Charlie was very sweet – you don’t realise (well I didn’t) what a light unassuming sweetie he’s been to be with until they go to the art gallery and the guy in the green shirt is such a jarring contrast with his staccato questions about where do you work etc, his intrusive energy. When he says about the haircut, it would be easy to imagine that in his mind, they must be therefore be a sexually intimate couple but we know they’ve had this very familiar – giving someone a haircut – action between them without sex. We see that again later with the adjustment of the bra strap.
Robin talks about her difficulties in combining a psychological connection with a sexual one, she’s had all this cerebral connection – then she’s supposed to be able to put another hat on and have a physical one and she finds that really a hard transition to make with a guy. I think a lot of people in “coupledom” do struggle to reconcile their sexual relationship with their “other” relationships such as, as parents etc. Women perhaps find this harder than men who can I think it can be agreed more easily slip into sexual mode, but it is something both genders struggle with in established relationships. She speculates if just getting a hot guy in her life for sex without psychological connection will help her get past this block, so she can just be visceral when that’s what’s required.
After the party they’re on the street then the train and we’re shown they’ve grown comfortably closer and quite loving towards each other, Charlie’s giving over to this was especially touching I thought. Then the plane leaves and life moves along to what no one knows for sure.
It was very pretty sometimes! Lovely colours