Along with directors Andrew Bujalski and Joe Swanberg, filmmaker Aaron Katz has often had his work described as “mumblecore,” but it takes only a cursory glance at Katz’s films to realize that the m-word is a nonmovement: Quiet City (2007) and Dance Party, USA (2006) continue a long and noble tradition of movies devoted to young white folks talking about their feelings. Katz is unafraid to acknowledge his debts to the masters of the genre: The made-in-Brooklyn City strongly evokes Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise, while Dance Party, shot in Portland, Oregon (Katz’s hometown), plays like Superbad rewritten by Neil LaBute.
The story of Jamie (Erin Fisher), a visitor from Atlanta who spends a day with Charlie (Cris Lankenau), a charming but inarticulate guy she meets in a Park Slope subway station, City is a masterfully understated chronicle of the beginning of a relationship and surely one of the most romantic portraits of Brooklyn ever captured on film. Dance Party, also follows a young couple, Gus and Jessica (Cole Pennsinger and Anna Kavan), who meet at a beer-soaked Independence Day bash and bond after Gus makes a chilling confession. There’s a touch of Larry Clark–Gus Van Sant sensationalism at first, which soon gives way to a poignancy that recalls the work of Katz’s fellow North Carolina School of the Arts alum David Gordon Green (All the Real Girls). Both films are distinguished by a confidence and sincerity that pegs the 26-year-old Katz as the kind of director who, before he hits 40, will have had at least three books written about his work.