Jamie (Erin Fisher) lands in New York to visit a friend, and the young stranger (Chris Lankenau) she buttonholes and quizzes on directions knows the diner where she’s supposed to rendezvous; when Jamie’s friend doesn’t show and can’t be reached, the stranger invites her to crash on his couch. They talk, they hang, they wander, they eat coleslaw, they go to a party, she flies back home. Nothing happens, but everything changes in small ways.
Indeed, what’s most impressive about “mumblecore” auteur Aaron Katz’ freshly-released-on-DVD 2007 feature Quiet City is what doesn’t happen—namely, what you expect. There’s no soul-baring, no consummating clinch, no plot. Instead, Katz and his stars/co-writers accumulate a string of fumbling, inarticulate moments that speak volumes about what it is to be young and feeling your way forward in the world, toward some idea of who you are, and toward other people in any sense deeper than a post-party hook-up. Katz gets to have it both ways, lensing a rom-com-ready New York autumn in low-budget digital video and creating what amounts to a Park Slope take on Lost in Translation without having to oversell his modest assets, most especially the fetching Fisher, whom the camera, at any price point, just loves.
Katz’ 2006 Dance Party, U.S.A., bundled onto a second disc, is literally the teenage version of Quiet City, with all the attendant inchoate awkwardness. Asshole Gus (Cole Pennsinger) finds himself genuinely drawn to quiet, blond Jessica (Anna Kavan), and even after he spills at least one really good reason she should stay far away, she seems drawn to him, too. There’s too much conscious effort to shock, and, on occasion, way too much talking, but a handful of the scenes display the kind of watchful patience that pays off throughout Quiet City. Of course, Kavan’s presence suggests that maybe Katz’ greatest talent is casting novice actresses you would watch do anything, or nothing.