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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DRSchwarz
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#51 Post by DRSchwarz » Thu Nov 03, 2005 7:24 pm

Does anyone else think that maybe because CC is releasing Metropolitan that maybe they are working on getting the rights to the currently out of print The Last Days of Disco? If they could some how swing a Whit Stillman three film box set, I would die a happy man.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#52 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Fri Nov 04, 2005 9:38 am

DRSchwarz wrote:Does anyone else think that maybe because CC is releasing Metropolitan that maybe they are working on getting the rights to the currently out of print The Last Days of Disco? If they could some how swing a Whit Stillman three film box set, I would die a happy man.
That would be sweet. I wonder who owns it?

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#53 Post by kieslowski » Fri Nov 04, 2005 10:03 am

Surely it's Warners? Barcelona and Dsico were made by Castle Rock and released by Warners, so I'm assuming they still have the rights and would, therefore, stick to their policy of not licensing to Criterion (or anyone else.) Unless the ownership of these two has changed for some reason.

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Ashirg
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#54 Post by Ashirg » Fri Nov 04, 2005 10:41 am

Last Days of Disco was Polygram release which is now owned by Universal.

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#55 Post by Narshty » Mon Nov 07, 2005 2:41 pm

Oh, that was not a good film. Awkward surface-level performances with zero comic timing or ability, a script that equates wit and elegance with hunting through a thesaurus and an almost pathological refusal to invest in dramatic conflict or interest of any sort. It's so flaccidly directed, limping its dreary way to a criminally lazy and cliched finale. Imagine if Kevin Smith had gone to boarding school and had an allergy to swearing - that's pretty much what you get here.

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#56 Post by leo goldsmith » Mon Nov 07, 2005 4:58 pm

But did you like it?

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DRSchwarz
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#57 Post by DRSchwarz » Tue Nov 08, 2005 5:27 am

Narshty wrote:Oh, that was not a good film. Awkward surface-level performances with zero comic timing or ability, a script that equates wit and elegance with hunting through a thesaurus and an almost pathological refusal to invest in dramatic conflict or interest of any sort. It's so flaccidly directed, limping its dreary way to a criminally lazy and cliched finale. Imagine if Kevin Smith had gone to boarding school and had an allergy to swearing - that's pretty much what you get here.
what's the point of a comment like this? what are you trying to prove? you are entitled to your opinion sure, but it is clear that both Criterion and the Academy would dissagree with you as well as countless other people like myself who can't wait for this film to be released on DVD.

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#58 Post by Narshty » Tue Nov 08, 2005 6:19 am

DRSchwarz wrote:what's the point of a comment like this?
1) To warn people from wasting $40.

2) As luck would have it, to annoy those with enough childish self-righteousness to come onto the internet and express outrage at encountering views differing from their own and the "phantom majority".

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#59 Post by zedz » Tue Nov 08, 2005 11:53 pm

DRSchwarz wrote:
Narshty wrote:Oh, that was not a good film. Awkward surface-level performances with zero comic timing or ability, a script that equates wit and elegance with hunting through a thesaurus and an almost pathological refusal to invest in dramatic conflict or interest of any sort. It's so flaccidly directed, limping its dreary way to a criminally lazy and cliched finale. Imagine if Kevin Smith had gone to boarding school and had an allergy to swearing - that's pretty much what you get here.
what's the point of a comment like this?
It's known as 'criticism,' and as long as its author articulates just what it is about a given film that he doesn't like (as Narshty does here), and doesn't simply say "this film sucks", then it's most welcome. And you're most welcome to respond with lucid and reasoned observations of your own (your previously posted Academy Fight Song doesn't exactly qualify). This is a forum for discussing films, not a cheerleader audition.

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#60 Post by DRSchwarz » Wed Nov 09, 2005 5:40 am

point taken. i suppose there are some films that i love so much that i am blinded to reason when it comes to them. Metropolitan is one of those films. You both are right in your responses to my ignorant comment.

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#61 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Jan 25, 2006 5:33 pm

a nice little interview with Stillman about making the movie over at Filmmaker magazine's site: http://www.filmmakermagazine.com/winter ... n_park.php

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#62 Post by Narshty » Thu Feb 02, 2006 3:50 pm


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#63 Post by Narshty » Fri Feb 03, 2006 8:33 am

Back cover and spine

Not part of the New Line deal, as originally suspected.

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#64 Post by Gregory » Sat Feb 04, 2006 1:53 am

I watched this a few weeks ago and to me it lacked all the maturity and personality of Woody Allen's best work. There were a couple of really funny lines (e.g. "Is there any more wine?" after the tirade against Discrete Charm of the Bourgeosie) but all in all it also lacked the humor of Woody Allen's comedic films. Most critics who praised the film seemed to say that the witty and sparkling dialogue was the film's forte, but I found everyone in the film pretty insipid.
Needless to say I won't go out of my way to see this again but I am interested to see what Luc Sante has written about the film in his essay. His writings on New York and on film generally deal with the rabble, viewing his subjects from the bottom up. I'm interested in what he has to say about how the other half lives.

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#65 Post by Narshty » Sun Feb 05, 2006 8:52 am

Gregory wrote:There were a couple of really funny lines (e.g. "Is there any more wine?" after the tirade against Discrete Charm of the Bourgeosie)
The one huge belly laugh the film extracted from me was one of the fellows coming out with something along the lines of "When I heard about The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, I thought, at last! Someone will tell it like it really is!"

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#66 Post by John Cope » Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:22 pm

For my part I have seen Metropolitan many times and it remains as fresh and vital as ever; touching, evocative and very funny. What I like so much about Stillman's films (particularly this one) is the manner in which they are most definitely not Woody Allen's. Allen is a favorite of mine as well but to compare the two artists is to miss the point. Woody's entire aesthetic comes out of a different ethos, a more settled attitude. Whether he means to or not his presentation of upper class characters is always inflected with a certain genuine self satisfaction--the self satisfaction that Stillman both mocks and looks tenderly on. Woody's disconnect from anything outside his own social strata has been commented on widely and may be more true than similar comments made about, say, Kubrick, but that doesn't diminish his insights; it's just valuable to set them in context.

Ultimately I think Metropolitan's real accomplishment is that Stillman has real affection for his characters in a way Woody doesn't and can't--he's simply too far removed from the question of whether or not his characters being sympathetic makes any difference; and he can't help but implicitly celebrate the benefits of social climbing. This is not an issue for Stillman as his concerns are elsewhere; the benefits to being privileged and educated are more of a given, and he can criticize their employment in a more thorough manner (see Audrey and Tom's conversation about literary criticism). It is not fashionable to have actual sympathy for the flailings of the upper class (which is why we get condescending populist garbage like Armageddon and superficially "relatable" indie flicks), particularly not the gentrified aristocracy he is handling here; Stillman, though, presents us with characters who seem pretentious and may be pretentious but then expects us to see through that facade to the anxiety ridden personas that lie beneath. It's too easy to say that his characters are hollow; they are no more hollow than the characters in an Andrew Bujalski film, they simply are more eloquent and better equipped with a slate of tony references at their defense. Tom's status as an outsider who penetrates the ring of empowered elites is valuable as a device for broader audience identification but it is also a means to humanize the otherwise remote Sally Fowler Rat Pack. Their embrace of Tom as worthwhile suggests their untouted egalitarianism, though one clearly shot through with an elitist criteria. Stillman does not criticize this as he knows there is a criteria for every social group and this one does not resonate as hateful but rather, at worst, unformed by experience. Part of Stillman's daring is to see culture and education as valuable characteristics, even when they are in the shape of unformed potential. He assumes we get the fact that these people are relatable because they are emotionally vulnerable in a similar human way to us all, they share our insecurities and fragilities, our dependent neediness; he does not feel the need to spell out the distinction or to cast these qualities as neuroses. It is simply the condition of youth. While Nick, Audrey, Tom and all the rest may be self righteous at times, we know better and Stillman does too.

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#67 Post by Gregory » Sun Feb 05, 2006 4:33 pm

John, I believe you're right that Stillman has great affection for his characters, but his screenplay and the way it was presented here didn't have the stuff to convey that affection to me. I believe I went into it with an open mind but still found the characters to be insufferable mainly because of their shallowness; their mere status as idle rich was a much smaller concern for me.
I don't believe the group's embrace of Tom shows their egalitarianism. First of all, not everyone in the group likes him all that much, mainly just Nick and Audrey. The others tolerate him for that reason. The main reason he's accepted because his social class and background is close enough to theirs that he can be swept in with them almost by accident. He begins making bonds with the group at the first party because they quickly discover they have a number of common friends and acquaintences.
Narshty wrote:The one huge belly laugh the film extracted from me was one of the fellows coming out with something along the lines of "When I heard about The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, I thought, at last! Someone will tell it like it really is!"

Yes, that's the same scene. And, fuck it all, I used the wrong spelling of 'discreet' before. Some Bunuel fanatic I am.

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#68 Post by John Cope » Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:23 am

Fair enough, but egalitarianism is an ideal rather than a reality. The SFRP may not care for Tom much but their tolerance of him makes for a not insignificant distinction from the likes of Rick Von Sloneker. And though it is true that Tom's social class and mutual friends do have impact I maintain that the bonding between him and the others has just as much to do with a shared appreciation of culture and civility. Now, of course, the fact that most of these kids don't really know why they appreciate what they do is one of Stillman's affectionate ironies.

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#69 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Feb 06, 2006 10:42 am

Gregory wrote:I don't believe the group's embrace of Tom shows their egalitarianism. First of all, not everyone in the group likes him all that much, mainly just Nick and Audrey. The others tolerate him for that reason. The main reason he's accepted because his social class and background is close enough to theirs that he can be swept in with them almost by accident. He begins making bonds with the group at the first party because they quickly discover they have a number of common friends and acquaintences.
I don't believe that is entirely true. Charlie also grows to like Tom because he realizes that Tom cares for Audrey just as much as he does (hence their teaming up to "rescue" her from Rick Von Sloneker) and he is also impressed by Tom being able to hold his own with him in an intellectual debate about the failure of Brookfarm's Fourierism. So, Nick may have been the catalyst for getting Tom into the Sally Fowler Rat Pack but once he's in there, Tom is able to hold his own.

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#70 Post by Gregory » Mon Feb 06, 2006 2:38 pm

Perhaps. I was thinking of the first few weeks of his introduction into to the group, which is I believe the litmus test for its openness. But really even if everyone had accepted him immediately I believe my point would still stand that his acceptance had a lot to do with the closeness of his class and background.

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#71 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Feb 06, 2006 5:35 pm

Gregory wrote:Perhaps. I was thinking of the first few weeks of his introduction into to the group, which is I believe the litmus test for its openness. But really even if everyone had accepted him immediately I believe my point would still stand that his acceptance had a lot to do with the closeness of his class and background.
Fair enough... Altho, I think that Stillman even makes light of this when Nick spies Tom heading off to the Upper West Side and says, "That explains it. We've got a West Sider in our midst," poking gentle fun at the rivalry between Upper East and West Sides...

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#72 Post by Steven H » Sun Feb 12, 2006 4:30 pm

John Cope wrote:Tom's status as an outsider who penetrates the ring of empowered elites is valuable as a device for broader audience identification but it is also a means to humanize the otherwise remote Sally Fowler Rat Pack. Their embrace of Tom as worthwhile suggests their untouted egalitarianism, though one clearly shot through with an elitist criteria. Stillman does not criticize this as he knows there is a criteria for every social group and this one does not resonate as hateful but rather, at worst, unformed by experience. Part of Stillman's daring is to see culture and education as valuable characteristics, even when they are in the shape of unformed potential. He assumes we get the fact that these people are relatable because they are emotionally vulnerable in a similar human way to us all, they share our insecurities and fragilities, our dependent neediness; he does not feel the need to spell out the distinction or to cast these qualities as neuroses. It is simply the condition of youth. While Nick, Audrey, Tom and all the rest may be self righteous at times, we know better and Stillman does too.
This hits the nail on the head for me. I was lucky enough to recieve this film as a gift, and though I remember liking Last Days Of Disco when I saw it years back (not enough to revisit, however), I didn't have high expectations for Metropolitan. It seems that there are some "givens" with the film, things that are just "there". The class system, which is evil of course, but has no real bearing on these characters' happiness. They are looking for love and friendship, and find dissapointment or satisfaction. The dialogue is thick, and contradictory. It's difficult to pinpoint the director's ideas if they're even there (I haven't heard the commentary yet, hopefully soon.) Narshty compared Stillman to Kevin Smith, but where Smith seems to use comedy and stylization towards empty uncommunicative purposes, all pointed toward character depth in Metropolitan. I felt that I knew these people, stilted acting and language and all.

The cinematic style does remind me of Rohmer, though a little less "zen", and more in the moment, pushing the individual characters in the limelight. Maybe more "american" is a good way to describe it (a little more "Wes Anderson" than Rohmer in it's character development, with high stylization and emphasis on less realistic personality quirks.) There was a great moment when Audrey half-heartedly dismisses Charlie's expression of feelings where his face is enveloped by shadow right before the cut. I thought that was perfect. I have a friend that reminds me a lot of Charlie. The kind of guy that learns a new language by listening to cassette tapes in the shower every morning, and then gets uppity about the rules for something like Scattergories.

I also loved the music. It seemed static, and dry. Reminiscent of the Vince Guaraldi trio's Merry Christmas Charlie Brown soundtrack. Seeing Tom sitting beside a withered Christmas tree with his nearly silent, curious step-mother wouldn't have seemed so out of place.

As to Tom's inclusion, I think he eventually wins over almost everyone (except for the upwardly mobile Sally and the topless Cynthia.)

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#73 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Feb 22, 2006 1:49 pm

A nice interview with Stillman here: http://www.betterthanfudge.com/?p=333#more-333

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#74 Post by milk114 » Wed Mar 01, 2006 1:22 am

an interview with Stillman at
http://www.avclub.com/content/node/45817

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#75 Post by Anthony » Sun Mar 05, 2006 6:19 pm

I just finished watching Metropolitan the other night and must say that I liked it very much. Yes, the film had its flaws (some stale acting, strange editing, etc). But I loved the fact that the melodrama seemed to be pushed beneath the film's surface.
On a side note, Did anyone notice that Stillman casted Carolyn Farina in Metropolitan and Last Days of Disco as the same character (Audrey Rouget)? It's been many years since I saw Last Days so I can't quite remember how large or small of a part she had in it.

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