326, 485, 807 A Whit Stillman Trilogy

Discuss DVDs and Blu-rays released by Criterion and the films on them. If it's got a spine number, it's in here. Threads may contain spoilers.
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kappoka
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#26 Post by kappoka » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:29 pm

If talking about art, and artistic merit is about the most abstract concept there is, then why talk about it at all? Why have this forum? why not just give in and wait til Criterion feeds us whatever they want? Your opinions or thoughts don't matter and mine don't either. If I, as a fanboy, cannot prove my case--then you as a cynic cannot prove your case. We have reached a dead-end. We should just continue spending good money on collecting some of these cinematic treasures and we should just take whatever they will give us. Obviously some people respect and hold Criterion to a higher standard. The statement that the CC mission is an employee guideline is priceless. This discussion, for me, ends with that interpretation.

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zedz
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#27 Post by zedz » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:29 pm

benm wrote:i will say that one of the few points that has been raised which i must agree with is the fact that stillman is not a prolific director. virtually all of the criterion films are in some way prolific so i do agree that maybe metropolitan is a departure from criterion's presentation.
Leaving Metropolitan aside for a moment (I haven't seen it, but I have seen Barcelona, which I found mediocre), the idea that prolificacy is a valid criterion for Criterion to select their directors is just bizarre. By that yardstick, we'd have to exclude Erice and Paradzhanov from the canon (or is imprisonment the equivalent of a note from Mother?). Night of the Hunter would be particularly unworthy.

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zedz
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#28 Post by zedz » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:32 pm

Andre Jurieu wrote:I don't condone animal cruelty, but I wish the scared cow named "Criterion Should Only Release Films that I Personally Deem to Have Artistic Merit" would have been slaughtered a long time ago in a most heinous and brutal fashion.
Good point; excellent Freudian slip.

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#29 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:46 pm

zedz wrote:(or is imprisonment the equivalent of a note from Mother?)
Just checked with Mulvaney. Apparently it is.

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Andre Jurieu
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#30 Post by Andre Jurieu » Wed Oct 05, 2005 5:25 pm

kappoka wrote:If talking about art, and artistic merit is about the most abstract concept there is, then why talk about it at all?
Just because something is abstract doesn't mean it cannot be discussed at all. It's not a completely abstract concept without even the possibility of understanding, it's merely very difficult to create a concrete understanding of. An actual discussion on the topic and an attempt by all parties to reach a more universal understanding enables us to make the concept less abstract. That's not what is happening here. So far it's been mostly opinion without explanation or reasoning behind the opinion.

Saying something shouldn't be compared to Woody Allen and should be categorized with Edward Burns conveys an opinion, but it doesn't give us an understanding of how that conclusion was drawn. You're simply relying on the fact that the consensus is that Woody has a depth to his dialogue and Burns is considered a half-step above sit-com. You haven't actually made a case for how Metropolitan shares characteristics with one but not the other.

It's not like I'm a huge Metropolitan fan or something. I watched it once when I was younger and thought it was decent, but not spectacular. I can see why it appeals to many people. I'm willing to hear an argument as to why it's a poor quality film, just as much as I'm willing to hear how it's the greatest thing since Kelly Carlson - but no one has made a decent argument against it yet.
kappoka wrote:Why have this forum?
Well, even though I would enjoy more discussion, and we occasionally do attempt it, most of the time this forum - like any internet forum - just allows people to gush over stuff or complain about stuff without any real reasoning given.
kappoka wrote:why not just give in and wait til Criterion feeds us whatever they want?
Well, I'm not sure your struggle against their tactics is accomplishing much if you're attempting to effect the supply side. To keep your metaphor going - you can't really effect what they prepare as a meal after its been announced by the chef by complaining on an internet forum that the course isn't up to their standards. However, you can choose not to purchase the meal.

Besides, none of us are saying that you should just scarf down the meal, no questions asked, like some sort of zombie. We are asking that you justify your claims regarding the merit of the film. Some of us are also asking that the perception of Criterion being this divine gold-standard be re-evaluated to a more realistic conception of a company making a quality product for films they find some merit in producing DVDs for.
kappoka wrote:Your opinions or thoughts don't matter and mine don't either.
Well, my opinion is that opinions don't matter without well-reasoned thoughts to back them up with.
kappoka wrote:If I, as a fanboy, cannot prove my case--then you as a cynic cannot prove your case.
You could prove your case if you actually told us why Metropolitan is not "worthy" of Criterion. I assume this would mean that you would have to state the terms by which something is "Criterion-worthy", providing reasons why the chosen aspects should be adopted as the consensus standard, and then prove that Metropolitan does not meet these standards.
kappoka wrote:We have reached a dead-end.
We have if no one is willing to state how or why exactly they believe Metropolitan sucks.
kappoka wrote:We should just continue spending good money on collecting some of these cinematic treasures and we should just take whatever they will give us.
Actually, you don't have to take whatever they give you. You can choose not to purchase it. However, purchasing a product has very little to do with judging the artistic merit of the work which the product is derived from.
kappoka wrote:Obviously some people respect and hold Criterion to a higher standard.

I'm sure they do, but no one has made a case for why they hold Criterion to a higher standard or what exactly the definition of that standard is.
kappoka wrote:The statement that the CC mission is an employee guideline is priceless.

It should be priceless because you can't put a price on the value of a definition. All Mission Statements start out as internal statements that the company's stakeholders (shareholders, employees, etc) use to define their own overall intensions and goals to themselves. Once established, companies can use Mission Statements in a variety of different ways. One way is to make the mission statement public as a form of marketing to potential consumers. However, Mission Statements aren't promises or guarantees to clients. That would be a separate clause. A mission is something you hope to accomplish. Missions fail all the time.
kappoka wrote:This discussion, for me, ends with that interpretation.
Why? Because it's a definition?
zedz wrote:Good point; excellent Freudian slip.
You know, I made a specific effort to ensure I spelled that correctly, and it still didn't work.

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#31 Post by pzman84 » Wed Oct 05, 2005 6:23 pm

Why is this film getting a release soon and I am still waiting for that Eisenstein box set?

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#32 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Wed Oct 05, 2005 6:41 pm

pzman84 wrote:Why is this film getting a release soon and I am still waiting for that Eisenstein box set?
Just checked with Jon Mulvaney on this one. He says it's basically 'cause they consider Stillman more Criterion-worthy than Eisenstein, that's all.

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#33 Post by Cinephrenic » Wed Oct 05, 2005 7:04 pm

Criterion seems to hate the Russians or they are sitting around reading Mein Kampf.
Last edited by Cinephrenic on Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#34 Post by two mules » Thu Oct 06, 2005 9:19 am

Y'know, there's a subtext to some of this "Metropolitan"-bashing that a couple of people have touched on, but I don't think has come to the surface in this thread... I can sum it up thus:

Q: "Why, when I have to buy everything Criterion releases, are they releasing a film I don't like?"

To which the A: is obvious. Don't buy the movie. Why do you have to buy them all? Is it not just a waste of money to buy it, and a waste of energy to complain that it's not worthy of being in the collection? Misdirected frustration, don't you think?

EDIT: Sorry, just to stay on topic... I haven't seen Metropolitan or Barcelona, but I really liked Last Days Of Disco, and I thought the Rohmer comparisons earlier in this thread served that film particularly well. If Metropolitan's anywhere near as craftily-written as LDOD, I think it would make a good Criterion [for whatever the fuck that's worth].

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#35 Post by redbill » Thu Oct 06, 2005 11:32 am

I haven't seen Metropolitan, but I absolutely hated the dialog in Last Days of Disco. Real people do not talk like that. It was like a bad episode of Dawson's Creek: quick back-and-forth pretentious banter, with no time for the characters to actually think about what they are saying and hearing.

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#36 Post by two mules » Thu Oct 06, 2005 11:36 am

redbill wrote:...in Last Days of Disco. Real people do not talk like that.
That's called stylisation. You'll find vaying versions of it it lots of different movies [see Kubrick, PT Anderson, Mamet, Lynch etc etc etc]. If characters just talked like real people, films would be very very dull indeed.

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#37 Post by Andre Jurieu » Thu Oct 06, 2005 11:37 am

fredfriendly wrote:You could debate the "quality" of any number of Criterion titles (God knows people do, endlessly) but in the end the label is dedicated to "specialized" titles, and Metropolitan certainly qualifies. What's great about Criterion to me, other than getting the canon out in spiffy editions, is that it also devotes attention to interesting and worthwhile films that may never garner consensus approval from critics, the public, or the self-appointed arbiters of what Criterion should or shouldn't put its stamp on.
I completely agree, especially on the distinction of "specialized" titles.
fredfriendly wrote:geek-a-saurus
I believe I'll be integrating this term into my regular vocabulary, along with "snarcastic".

redbill
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#38 Post by redbill » Thu Oct 06, 2005 11:56 am

two mules wrote:
redbill wrote:...in Last Days of Disco. Real people do not talk like that.
That's called stylisation. You'll find vaying versions of it it lots of different movies [see Kubrick, PT Anderson, Mamet, Lynch etc etc etc]. If characters just talked like real people, films would be very very dull indeed.
There's a difference between people talking intelligently, and people not stopping to breath or think when they talk. When I watch Mamet or PTA, the characters are believable. When I saw LDOD, it wasn't just unbelievable what they were saying, but the way they said it - like the cops in Dragnet.

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#39 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Thu Oct 06, 2005 12:32 pm

redbill wrote:
two mules wrote:
redbill wrote:...in Last Days of Disco. Real people do not talk like that.
That's called stylisation. You'll find vaying versions of it it lots of different movies [see Kubrick, PT Anderson, Mamet, Lynch etc etc etc]. If characters just talked like real people, films would be very very dull indeed.
There's a difference between people talking intelligently, and people not stopping to breath or think when they talk.
So, then what do you think about classic screwball comedies like Bringing Up Baby where people spew forth rapid-fire dialogue without taking a breath?
When I watch Mamet or PTA, the characters are believable. When I saw LDOD, it wasn't just unbelievable what they were saying, but the way they said it - like the cops in Dragnet.
Interesting comparison but I would have to disagree. While, the characters in Last Days of Disco may not be believable in the "real world" (whatever that means) they are believable in the world that Stillman creates. He populates his world with intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who happen to talk at a very fast clip. I don't find too many inconsistencies within the world that Stillman creates.

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#40 Post by Tribe » Thu Oct 06, 2005 12:40 pm

While, the characters in Last Days of Disco may not be believable in the "real world" (whatever that means) they are believable in the world that Stillman creates. He populates his world with intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who happen to talk at a very fast clip. I don't find too many inconsistencies within the world that Stillman creates.
Very well put. I haven't seen Metropolitan, but the bigger point you make is dead. Some people critique a piece because its not believable in terms of their everyday lives...but Christ, what fiction is?

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#41 Post by redbill » Thu Oct 06, 2005 12:47 pm

Tribe wrote:
While, the characters in Last Days of Disco may not be believable in the "real world" (whatever that means) they are believable in the world that Stillman creates. He populates his world with intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who happen to talk at a very fast clip. I don't find too many inconsistencies within the world that Stillman creates.
Very well put. I haven't seen Metropolitan, but the bigger point you make is dead. Some people critique a piece because its not believable in terms of their everyday lives...but Christ, what fiction is?

Tribe
Yes, that is a good point. I 100% agree that a movie doesn't have to be realistic in this world, but in the world of the film. I got the impression that the LDOD world Stillman created was trying to be our "realistic" world, and it just didn't work for me. If we want to say that "He populates his world with intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who happen to talk at a very fast clip" then I'll buy that, and I pray that I never have to step foot in that world...

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#42 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:37 pm

redbill wrote:If we want to say that "He populates his world with intellectuals and wannabe intellectuals who happen to talk at a very fast clip" then I'll buy that, and I pray that I never have to step foot in that world...
I'm thinking that's what we want to say.

I don't think Stillman's ever shot for realism. His dialogue is heavily mannered, and designed to both impress and repel.

By that I mean that we, as viewers, are put in a similar position to the protaganists in each film, each of whom stand out as less comfortable in their social context. Myself, I'm impressed by what the characters say, by the fact that they have the education, wit, and precisely affected style to say these things, and by the effortless ease with which they say them. It's not true to life, but it's not meant to seem true to life to the protaganists either - it's an unreal and perilously attractive fantasy land of education, affluence, and privilege.

At the same time I'm repelled by the hot-shot calculation that guides each conversation, and the fact that for all the verbal gymnastics, very little of carefully considered depth or even sincerity is being said. Furthermore, for all their articulation and ideas, the characters generally aren't actually doing anything of discernable merit. Similarly, the protaganists in this film at some point make an effort to put a wedge between themselves and "the group," and a large part of this can credited to that repulsion.

That's how I see it, anyway....

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#43 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Thu Oct 06, 2005 3:54 pm

An example of what I'm talking about:

In LDOD, our leading ladies work with a guy (name escapes me) who carries an air of superiority over his more stylish and socially-connected co-workers, largely on the basis of what he sees as their vapid insincerity. Late in the movie he sees Chloe Sevigny reading a J.D. Salinger novel. Presumably as an attempt at conversation, he mentions that Mary McCarthy wrote a savagely uncomplimentary piece on Salinger.

This is conversation in Stillman's films. Well-informed and well-versed, but typically lacking in personal opinion or experience. It sounds impressive - and the character means it to - but fails to include any meaty dialogue on the topic at hand (Salinger). Basically, it's name-dropping. He says it knowing that she probably won't be familiar with McCarthy's piece. It doesn't allow for much in the way of conversational reciprocity. What is Sevigny supposed to say back to that? Nothing. Whether deliberately adversarial or just ineptly awkward, it isn't much for communication.

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#44 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Thu Oct 06, 2005 4:27 pm

backstreetsbackalright wrote:This is conversation in Stillman's films. Well-informed and well-versed, but typically lacking in personal opinion or experience. It sounds impressive - and the character means it to - but fails to include any meaty dialogue on the topic at hand (Salinger). Basically, it's name-dropping. He says it knowing that she probably won't be familiar with McCarthy's piece. It doesn't allow for much in the way of conversational reciprocity. What is Sevigny supposed to say back to that? Nothing. Whether deliberately adversarial or just ineptly awkward, it isn't much for communication.
Another good example is in Metropolitan when Tom and Audrey have a conversation about Jane Austen and Tom tells her that he doesn't read fiction just, "I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking. With fiction I can never forget that none of it really happened, that it's all just made up by the author."

I think that sums some of the worldviews of the characters in Last Days of Disco as well -- especially Charlotte's character who is looking to get into the TV industry by the end of the film.

You raise some interesting points about communication (or the lack thereof) in Stillman's films. I find that in the early part of Metropolitan, everyone seems to be communicating with each other just fine but by the last third of the movie the group has splinted with very few of them talking to each other as they have broken up off into their own little splinter groups.

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#45 Post by Narshty » Thu Oct 06, 2005 4:56 pm

I always enjoy it when Criterion releases movies that most people seem to dislike. Maybe it's to do with trying to work out why anyone would find it a significant work of art in the first place which is always much more fun than being disappointed by a generally acclaimed "great" picture.

For what its worth, I quite liked Bodies, Rest & Motion in its own earnest, pretentious way. Is this in the same ballpark?

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#46 Post by Mental Mike » Thu Oct 20, 2005 2:24 am

I liked Metropolitain even if it was irritating at times - everyone is the same character in Stillman movies - they are all part of a group of completely useless pretentious neurotics! Still, some of the quips and gags are charming...I only hope that contemporary University alumni have more intestinal fortitude than the 'wimps' in Stillman's stuff...

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#47 Post by Theodore R. Stockton » Thu Oct 20, 2005 5:23 am

Mental Mike wrote: everyone is the same character in Stillman movies - they are all part of a group of completely useless pretentious neurotics!
Are you sure you don't mean Woody Allen?

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#48 Post by Andre Jurieu » Thu Nov 03, 2005 12:29 pm

I do enjoy how the synopsis starts with "One of the most the most significant achievements ..."

Special Features

New, restored high-definition digital transfer

Audio commentary by director Whit Stillman, editor Christopher Tellefsen, and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols

Rare outtakes and deleted scenes

Optional English subtitles for the deaf and heard of hearing

A new essay by author and film scholar Luc Sante

More!

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#49 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Thu Nov 03, 2005 1:43 pm

Andre Jurieu wrote:Audio commentary by director Whit Stillman, editor Christopher Tellefsen, and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols

Rare outtakes and deleted scenes
Nice. I'm looking forward to these two features especially.

Also, it'll be nice to hear Eigeman on the commentary track!

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#50 Post by Jean-Luc Garbo » Thu Nov 03, 2005 5:18 pm

Indeed the commentary track will be great to hear, but how much "more" can we expect? Especially at $40.

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