For all the talk this past week about mumblecore — what it is and how these films are similar — it should also be noted how different the aesthetics of its various directors are. A case in point is this week’s opening at the IFC Center, Quiet City, directed by Aaron Katz, which boasts some of the trademarks of the genre — 20-something protagonists, a focus on transitory lifestates, relationship issues, an extreme naturalism — but which also has its own very distinct sensibility that’s quite different from some of the genre’s other filmmakers. As its title suggests, the film references that just-barely noticeable phenomenon when a city of 7 million people can be, actually, very quiet. Try it. Stand on a city street late one night, and listen for the tiny details you’ll be amazed you can even notice. Of course, the film’s “quiet city” is just a stage for its characters and their equally subtle, at times barely audible feelings, but what I like most about the film is actually this conceptual unity. Quiet City is of a piece. It’s delicate, wafer-thin at times, but, like the best minimalist narratives, it winds up saying something memorable with the slenderest of means.
The mumblecore genre, with its minimalist aesthetics, minuscule budgets, home-movie casting of friends and acquaintances and its fly-on-the-wall, quasi-documentary spontaneity, is so wide-open for parody that it is a sitting duck for the most withering send-up. “Quiet City” is fortunate to arrive just before the inevitable demolition crews arrive to tear it to shreds. Tender and sad, it is a fully realized work of mumblecore poetry.