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March 25 - March 26

Three Films by Aaron Katz

One of the most significant emerging voices in contemporary American independent cinema, Aaron Katz (b. 1981) has directed three feature films distinguished by their meticulous visual style, sensitivity to place and innovative approaches to character-driven narrative. Drawn to the cinema from an early age, Katz began making Super-8 films in high school and went on to study acting and filmmaking at the North Carolina School of the Arts, where he met many of the friends who have remained regular collaborators on his features- including cinematographer Andrew Reed and producers Brendan McFadden and Ben Stambler. Although Katz is consistently identified with the ironically labeled “mumble-core” movement - named for the dominant focus of so many “indie” films on less-than-articulate twenty-something characters drifting through a post-college extended adolescence - his films have subtly resisted many of the movement’s dominant trends. Despite their lower budgets, Katz’s films have turned away from the bare bones, rough-edged aesthetic embraced by many younger American directors and have instead explored a more sophisticated visual style that carefully transforms the confined spaces and urban locations favored in his films into dynamic stages that intensify the intimate dramas that takes place upon them. Rather than the loose, improvisational narratives shared by so many of today’s indie films, Katz prefers to explore stories whose tight yet nuanced structures frequently turn in unexpected directions- from the surprise romance that abruptly changes the tone and rhythm of Dance Party USA, to Quiet City’s careful deferment of what seems to be its inevitable ending, and, perhaps most unexpectedly, to the mystery that suddenly transforms Cold Weather into an affectionate yet bewitching homage to the detective film. Together Katz’s three films define a restrained, yet wonderfully off-beat minimalism of style and story whose emotional weight and meaning is constantly displaced away from more traditional story “arcs,” and towards the smaller gestures and revealing details of people and place.

The Harvard Film Archive is pleased that Aaron Katz will join us for both evenings of this retrospective. – Haden Guest

Special thanks: Ryan Werner, IFC.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Friday March 25 at 7pm

Cold Weather

Directed by Aaron Katz, Appearing in Person
With Cris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raúl Castillo
USA 2010, digital video, color, 96 min.

Katz’s love of classic detective fiction inspired his newest film which stars Quiet City’s Chris Lankenau as a grad student of forensic science taking indefinite time off from his studies to finds a certain peace in menial jobs and sharing an apartment with his sister. When a surprise visit from his ex-girlfriend opens a strange mystery, the young would-be detective and the film itself are pulled suddenly into an unexpected direction. Cold Weather’s fascinating marriage of detective mystery and slacker film is tinged with humor and a rich ambiguity captured beautifully by Andrew Reed’s moody cinematography, which enshrouds Katz’s native Portland in thick mist and shadow, and by the catchy and innovative original score by Katz’s high-school friend and regular collaborator Keegan DeWitt. A film of remarkable sophistication and nuance, Cold Weather delicately interweaves its gently insightful depiction of sibling (re)bonding with a tale of enigmatic disappearance and inventive sleuthing.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Saturday March 26 at 7pm

Quiet City

Directed by Aaron Katz, Appearing in Person
With Erin Fisher, Cris Lankenau, Sarah Hellman
USA 2007, 35mm, color, 78 min.

One of the few authentic and heartfelt romances from the contemporary indie movement, Quiet City is a film of notable restraint that gives as much attention to its Brooklyn setting as its two characters who just may be falling in love. Careful understatement guides Katz’s resonant portrait of a young couple brought together by chance and curiosity, restricting all background information to an absolute minimum to give the spectator of two young strangers, getting to know each other gradually by gleaning details from revealing gestures and spontaneous comments. Made with a miniscule budget in only eight days, Quiet City gets its title from the evocative Brooklyn locations shot with a rare eye for poetic composition and effulgent colors by Andrew Reed. As the young strangers discovering themselves and the city around them, Chris Lankenau and Erin Fisher bring a charming awkwardness and spontaneous grace to their to their first starring roles.

Dance Party, USA

Directed by Aaron Katz, Appearing in Person
With Cole Pensinger, Anna Kavan, Ryan White
USA 2006, 35mm, color, 65 min.

For his feature debut Katz used a Fourth of July party as the background for a subtle and ultimately touching character study of two teenagers dealing with mid-summer boredom and social pressure. Despite its relaxed pace and improvisational feel, Dance Party, USA is carefully structured, skillfully intertwining its portraits of a feckless womanizer and a skeptical young woman in order to reveal an unlikely but fully believable romance inspired by the revelation of a disquieting secret.


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Harvard Film Archive • Carpenter Center • 24 Quincy Street • Cambridge MA 02138 • 617-495-4700