May 2, 2011


Cold Weather is a low budget, low-fi indie sort of noir film about a deadbeat guy, living with his sister in Portland. You could possibly describe it as a slow-burn, but it's really more of a slow meander where things occasionally (but not often) happen. If this is a noir film, it's a noir film with no known noir characters or archetypes and doesn't hit any of the regular beats you might expect from a genre film.

For the first quarter of the film nothing much of note happens. The guy, Doug, is a bit of a loser. He's a forensic science drop-out, with not much going on in the way of ambition or anything else; he gets a job in an ice factory because, well, he doesn't seem overly keen on anything in particular. He the kind of guy who barges in on his sister at work and convinces/demands her to head out to the coast with him to watch whales. There are no whales. Just a shitty grey beach, where they sit at a picnic table and eat sandwiches. This is the content of a good 10-15 minutes of run-time. Doug's ex-girlfriend Rachel turns up in town for a conference. They meet up and... not much happens. Until she disappears.

And there, for a few moments, is a real sense of motion to the film, of forward momentum as Doug and his Star Trek-lovin' work buddy Carlos try and find out what's happened to Rachel. Doug gets the chance to stretch himself, to become the Sherlock Holmes he's always wanted to be. And then, goddammit, the very next day he sleeps in. He sleeps in, goes to the library and buys a pipe. So he can be more Sherlock Holmes-ey. Instead of running down the clues left by Rachel, he buys a pipe! Now, I know there is likely a decent part of my brain that has been hard-wired by years of Hollywood story-telling and film-making convention and it's rebelling against the more gentle pace and seeming futzing about by the characters. But Cris Lankenau's Doug barely manages to convey that he gives a shit that his ex has mysteriously gone missing and may be mixed up in some shady business.

You might be surprised after reading the preceding two paragraphs then, that I didn't hate this film. I've certainly detested others like it, but there was something about it; perhaps just that there were moments that really, truly worked. For one thing, although it was shot on digital there are often really beautiful shots, the most notable being Doug and Rachel on a bridge in front of a waterfall. While the characters themselves might be frustrating, their interactions with one another feel genuine and well-played. Although, while the dialogue might be natural for real life - with stops, starts, ellipses etc - in the context of a film it feels stunted and unnatural.

While it might not be for me (especially after watching three films in a row previously), there is a part of me that is glad this film is out there. That the film world can be so fluid now, you can actually make this kind of film. 

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