Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sherlock Holmes Is a Pimp

COLD
WEATHER
(Aaron Katz,
US, HD, 2010,
96 mins.)






"Sherlock Holmes is a pimp."
--Carlos (Raúl Castillo) to Doug (Cris Lankenau)

A forensic science student stumbles into a mystery in writer/direc-
tor Aaron Katz's third and most accomplished feature. It begins af-
ter Doug (Quiet City's Cris Lankenau) moves back to Portland from
Chicago to room with his sister, Gail (United 93's Trieste Kelly Dunn).

Until he finds a job, he comes and goes as he pleases, but she follows
a more set schedule. In the opening sequence, though, Doug does con-
vince her to leave early one day for a trip to atmospheric Cannon Beach.
This sets the scene for their relationship, as well as the entire film. By
the end, these virtual strangers will have reestablished old family ties.

Not long afterward, Doug finds work at an ice factory, telling the man-
ager that he's undecided about finishing his degree. He works nights with
Carlos (Raúl Castillo, a sparky presence), a part-time disc jockey. When
Carlos asks about his area of expertise, Doug explains, "I don't really
want to be a CSI-type detective. I want to be more like Sherlock Hol-
mes." He proceeds to turn Carlos on to the Sir Conan Doyle series.


Then, Doug's ex-girlfriend, Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), who says she's
been working in a Chicago law office, drops by for a visit while in
town for training. At their first meeting, she seems a little out
of sorts, but the four go on to form a comfortable social unit.

Along the way, Carlos invites Rachel to join him for a Star Trek
Convention, since she's the only one who expresses any interest--
suffice to say, he's a man of surprises--but when he subsequent-
ly invites her to check out one of his DJ nights, she never shows.

At first, Doug doubts that anything is amiss, even though Rachel left
her motel lights on and stopped answering the phone, but Carlos con-
vinces him otherwise. Previously, he had laughed at the Holmes-Watson dynamic--"Elementary, my dear Watson," he sniffed--yet he comes to ful-
fill that function once Doug gets on board, which makes Gail a Hermione
to their Harry-Ron combo, if you'll pardon the Harry Potter reference.

The trio starts by retracing Rachel's steps: examining her room and fol-
lowing up on the clues she left behind, like a phone number and a porn
site handbill. Whereas a different filmmaker might turn to darker lighting
or heavier music, Katz takes the opposite tack: the tone becomes bright-
er and looser as the amateur investigation kicks into high gear (he re-
ceives a helpful assist from the inventive Keegan DeWitt, his regular
composer). Doug even picks up a certain Holmes affectation to get him-
self in the optimum frame of mind (not the deerstalker cap, fortunately).

Unlike the BBC's recent Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch as a
contemporary version of Doyle's detective--to Martin Freeman's Wat-
son--Cold Weather doesn't draw from the same source, but Katz nev-
er shies away from the inspiration. Despite the use of cell phones and computers, Doug's approach is essentially low-tech, which is to say, an-
ti-CSI. Instead, he relies on library research, stake-outs, and disguises.

As in Dance Party, USA and Quiet City, Katz, by way of DP Andrew Reed,
chooses his compositions with care. They don't feel studied, but they al-
ways look just right, which is important, since he favors static shots, an
unhurried pace, and naturalistic performances. Like the Chris Doyle-shot Paranoid Park, Portland comes alive as wet, green, and mysterious. Be-
cause Katz tends to works with inexperienced or non-actors, there isn't
a lot of technique on display, but the characters register as believable.

That said, if you're expecting a big reveal or a fast-paced wrap-up,
you may leave disappointed. Though the ending took me by surprise--
I was expecting an epilogue--it makes perfect sense when you think a-
bout it: Doug proves himself the detective he was always meant to be.




Cold Weather
plays the
Northwest Film Forum March
11-17 at 7 and 9:15pm. The
NWFF is located at 1515 12th
Ave. between Pike and Pine
on Capitol Hill. For more in-
formation, please click here. Image from IONCINEMA/IFC.

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