I like when an off-beat director grabs hold of just barely enough traditional narrative to hook us. I also like trailers that are more concerned with conveying a hint of the flavor and aroma of a film without revealing all the ingredients like a 3-minute condensed recipe. (Just add water, for a bite-sized, easily digestible Insta-Plot. Ready to gulp down in less than 3 minutes!) Creating a mild sensation at SXSW this week are just such a director and movie:
(LA Times) “Cold Weather,” the third feature from filmmaker Aaron Katz, fuses the untethered emotions and ambient anxieties of his earlier work onto a purposefully off-beat detective story that launches him in a new direction. Where his previous features… were diffuse romances, making Katz seem something of a lo-fi sensualist and new American independent variation on art-house stalwarts Michelangelo Antonioni or Wong Kar-wai, “Cold Weather” has just enough of a jolt of conventional plotting to make it a more audience-friendly and, dare one say it, commercial picture…
With “Cold Weather,” Katz has taken a conscious step forward not only in the size of his budget and production but in his deployment of genre narrative devices to push his action along, creating a mystery film and a look at brother-sister bonds, a movie that is at once driven by the quirks of its characters and the machinations of its wayward detective plot.
Notice how we skipped right over any clue about the plot? Sometimes isn’t it more fun to discover a movie intuitively, like sight reading sheet music? The same way we take a chance and sample an unlabeled dish at a buffet. If it looks tasty do we need to read what it’s made of? Just dive in, bite into it and find out, right? (For those who are wary about swallowing unfamiliar comestibles, there’s a tidy synopsis after the cut.)
tsk-tsk. At least try to skip the 2nd paragraph.
After making a mess of his life in Chicago, Doug returns home to rainy Portland, Oregon to live with his more stable and responsible sister, Gail. Unsure of what to do next, Doug spends his days sleeping until noon, and rereading old detective novels, while Gail goes about the daily routines of her quiet life. Eventually Doug manages to find a job working the night shift at an ice factory. There he meets Carlos, a longtime employee who moonlights as a DJ. Carlos is initially skeptical of Doug — he’s seen all kinds of people pass through the job — but the two quickly become friends after Doug lends him a copy of his favorite book, ‘The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.’
Still gotta know more? yeesh, hopeless.
An ex-girlfriend of Doug’s named Rachel comes to town. Doug introduces her to Carlos, and the two quickly hit it off. But when she fails to turn up for their second date, Carlos suspects something bad must have happened. Convinced of foul play, he shows up at Doug and Gail’s apartment in the middle of the night. At first Doug and Gail don’t take Carlos’s suspicions seriously, but eventually they begin to think there might be something to his claims. With Doug in the lead, relying largely on expertise gained from years of reading detective novels, they set out to investigate. What they discover is a complex trail of clues, leading them increasingly closer to the mysterious truth about Rachel.