The following essay by Ray Carney on Aaron Katz’s Quiet City accompanies a 2-disc DVD release from Benten Films out this week of Quiet City and Katz's first film, Dance Party, USA.
Mainstream film is so much an art of the maximum – the biggest, the flashiest, the fastest, the most exaggerated – that it is easy to forget that the great films all go in the opposite direction. They are, almost without exception, triumphs of minimalism. They rely on subtlety, understatement, indirection, and simplification. In Stranger than Paradise, Down by Law, and Mystery Train, Jim Jarmusch sets long sections of each work in almost empty rooms. In Femme Douce and L’Argent, Robert Bresson silences his characters to such an extent that room tone and traffic noises become more important than what the characters say to each other. In Joan of Arc and Gertrud, Carl Dreyer immobilizes his actors and actually prevents them from “acting” by insisting that they talk in conversational tones even at moments of high drama. But the effect of these acts of reduction is the opposite of a feeling of emptiness or depletion. As is so often the case in art, less is more. Read more
Ray Carney is professor of film and American studies at Boston University. He is the author of more than ten books on film and other art, and manages the largest non–commercial web site in the world devoted to independent film at: http://www.cassavetes.com.