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Whit Stillman returns
November 18, 2010 7:20 PM   Subscribe

“People make a big deal about your time away from doing film,” I say. “It is a big deal,” he says. “It’s pretty bad.” After 13 years of silence and a half-dozen aborted projects, Whit Stillman has finished shooting his fourth movie, tentatively called Damsels in Distress.
posted by escabeche (36 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Edward Clements was the nominal lead of Metropolitan (Stillman's debut in 1990, which I loved). He has exactly one other credit according to IMDB: "Young Crewman" in a Star Trek flick. He went back to stage work and I dunno if he is acting at all, still.

All this to say that at one point in about 1998 he was doing live theatre in Toronto. I saw him once or twice on the 126 Christie bus. I knew that I recognized him but it took me a while to recall where from. By the toime I realized who he was the fugitive opportunity had passed.

Not much of a story, I know, but the announcement of a new Stillman movie is likely the only time I will ever get a chance to break it out. Carry on.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:41 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


About ten years ago I was wondering during a Patriots game what Whit Stillman does between films (as you do). Our own yerfatma suggested that Stillman "probably works at BK" and that his coworkers and patrons comment on the quality of Stillman's films.

So that was about 10 years ago and that's the last time I thought about him. And I'd consider myself a fan.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:43 PM on November 18, 2010


Man, Stillman made me a huge Chris Eigman fan. I love those movies. Anyone ever notice that Eigman is wearing the same clothes at the end of Last Days of Disco when he is planning to flea the country and when he shows up in Barcelona? Since it's almost Christmas I'm going to have to put metropolitan on my netflix queue for orgy week.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:47 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


"The Last Days of Disco" didn't make me love disco, although I liked the fact that the promiscuous characters actually got venereal disease, as in real life. And the NYC apartments in that film looked like actual, cramped NYC apartments, not some the vast dirigible hangers like you see on TV in Friends. Whit Stillman is the thinking man's Wes Andersen.
posted by Faze at 7:51 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS fricking finally.
posted by felix grundy at 7:52 PM on November 18, 2010


I thought Last days of disco was the weakest of the three. Barcelona was worth it for The explanation of Maneuver X and "el punto del diamanté" alone.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:55 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow this is an almost astonishingly bad interview. It takes a quarter of the piece before Stillman even gets quoted, 80% of it is not in fact from Stillman, 90% of it reads like an encyclopaedia entry on the man, and the remaining 10% is infused with the writer's obvious infatuation with him.

What's his new film about? We don't know.

Who's in it? He's not saying, except for one actor.

What the fuck has he been doing for the last twelve years? Living in Paris, writing, and getting divorced. That's one thing for every four years. Oh he also made one ad.

How can he afford that lifestyle? We don't really know. He rents his apartment sometimes.

What does he say about his work? Very little.

What does he order at a restaurant? We know all about that. And his jacket, and if he's late or not. Great.

This whole piece - despite being clogged with biographical flotsam - is almost totally opaque. He dresses in tweed. He had trouble funding his quirky and progressively less-watched three films. He doesn't like showbusiness. Who is he? What do we want to know about his work? Why are there only maybe 200 words direct from him in like a 2500 word piece? I feel like this is exactly the kind of thing Christian Bale was raging against in the just-linked Esquire interview he did.

I say all this as a fan of Barcelona particular, but also his other two films.
posted by smoke at 7:57 PM on November 18, 2010 [5 favorites]


I agree with smoke -- the writing itself is good, but with enough text to sink a battleship, it still fails to answer the one question anyone would have (well, there are two if you count "why haven't you made a movie in twelve years?", which it kind of answers): What on earth have you actually been doing for twelve years? I presume Stillman isn't obscenely wealthy; and even if he is, twelve years is a long time to just sorta hang out, even if you can afford it.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 8:14 PM on November 18, 2010


In the article's defense, the passage:

In hopes of remaining inconspicuous, Stillman even made his corporate name Steeplechase Webisodes, Inc. “Everyone seems bored with the idea of webisodes,” he says, “so we figured people, when they see that, will leave us alone.”

made me laugh harder than anything I've read this week.
posted by eschatfische at 8:22 PM on November 18, 2010 [8 favorites]


Well, what on earth did any of his characters actually "do" in any of his movies? Does it matter? Like art, like life.
posted by blucevalo at 8:25 PM on November 18, 2010


I'm a member of the chorus who are thrilled another Stillman movie is coming out -- and one of those feeling a little empty after reading the interview. I've read another interview of Stillman's (or maybe it was the foreword to a book of his screenplays?), and it had the same problem. There's always an invisible elephant in the room: My guess it's the same magical economics that allows painters to paint and novelists to write yet not create any significant body of work for a decade or more -- i.e., money from mom and dad. (Or maybe his ex-wife.) If you don't have to work, you don't work; you only choose to work when you get bored, or the situation is perfect. Whatever. I really like his films, and have a fondness for his overthinking-outsider characters that hasn't been matched by pretty much anything I've seen before or since.
posted by turducken at 9:16 PM on November 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I always assumed a guy named called Whit, who made a movie a clef about debutants was loaded.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:01 PM on November 18, 2010


I always assumed a guy named called Whit, who made a movie a clef about debutants was loaded.

Ah, but the protaganist of Metropolitan is a guy who isn't loaded but wants to hang out with wealthy debutantes.
posted by KingEdRa at 10:11 PM on November 18, 2010


I met another filmmaker that rarely works whose work I prefer to Stillman's (though I like Stillman's work): Lodge Kerrigan. I asked him why he made so few movies (3 in 11 years when I was speaking with him). His answer? "There's more to life than making movies."

It's about as good a fuckin' answer as you can get to that question, I guess.
posted by dobbs at 10:17 PM on November 18, 2010


OK, OK... can we have Kinka Usher back? I really liked Mystery Men, and it absolutely set the tone for a lot of superhero action and comedies to follow, and in a good way.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:35 PM on November 18, 2010


True, father is loaded , mother is broke ( as in his real life). They are so broke they had to live on the west side.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:03 PM on November 18, 2010


When I'm calling you-ooooo-oo-oo-ooo-oo-oo-ooooo...
posted by pracowity at 12:19 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thank you a million times for this update.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 12:52 AM on November 19, 2010


Fred: "Maybe you can clarify something for me. Since I've been, you know, waiting for the fleet to show up, I've read a lot, and..."
Ted: "Really?"
Fred: "And one of the things that keeps popping up is about "subtext." Plays, novels, songs - they all have a "subtext," which I take to mean a hidden message or import of some kind. So subtext we know. But what do you call the message or meaning that's right there on the surface, completely open and obvious? They never talk about that. What do you call what's above the subtext?"
Ted: "The text."
Fred: "OK, that's right, but they never talk about that. "

I used to regularly recommend both Metropolitan and Barcelona back in the day when they were only available on VHS. Hard to believe how long it has been since I've seen either.

Reading these quotes from Barcelona reminds me of how much I freaking loved that movie. Must find a digital copy, asap.
posted by shoepal at 12:59 AM on November 19, 2010


That was a pretty deeply un-satisfying interview. The C.Bale interview (posted yesterday) was about 200 times better, though also somewhat annoying, as it got into what a ... what kind of person Bale is. In this, I don't know anything more about this guy than I already did, which is that I like his movies and look forward to his next.

I, too, have a friend who has made a couple movies (profitably but not wildly so), but none in the last five + years. The tales he tells of trying to get first one then another then another then another made... I have envied him at times, without a doubt, but man, his stories (often involving deals just 'evaporating' when some key player in the deal loses interest for no directly obvious reason) put that in sharp perspective. If you're not making returns of 400% or so, it's not easy.
posted by From Bklyn at 1:00 AM on November 19, 2010


When I'm calling you-ooooo-oo-oo-ooo-oo-oo-ooooo...

That's Nelson Eddy and Janette McDonald. Whit Stillman sang 'I remember yoooo-hooo-hoo."
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:09 AM on November 19, 2010


Are you sure?
posted by pracowity at 2:28 AM on November 19, 2010


Oh, I'd never heard that cover, pracowity. Thanks ever so much -- NOT!
posted by PeterMcDermott at 3:00 AM on November 19, 2010


Because of unfortunate name similarity, almost a spoonerism, whenever I see or hear "Whit Stillman", I automatically think of this guy.
posted by hwestiii at 4:37 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Christian Bale was right.
posted by Pendragon at 6:21 AM on November 19, 2010


Because of unfortunate name similarity, almost a spoonerism, whenever I see or hear "Whit Stillman", I automatically think of this guy.

I would like to start a rumour that Whit Stillman's next movie will be a biopic: Whit Stillman's Walt Whitman (music by Slim Whitman).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:48 AM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


"90% of it reads like an encyclopaedia entry on the man"

But the sad thing is that some of the basics are just wrong:
Together, those movies—his so-called “Yuppie Trilogy,” three beautifully rendered satirical yarns about young, upper-crust college grads at emotional loose ends
The kids in Metropolitan aren't college grads.

And it also just misunderstands the movies signifigantly, I think:
Like the characters in his films, he also seems to inhabit a special space, a space he created—a Jet Blue of spaces, where people quote directors from the 1930s and are inspired by Balzac novels, and where plaid blazers are as all-purpose as three-packs of white T-shirts.
This misses the point. He inhabits the same space as the movies (partly because they draw on his life experiences), but Whit Stillman didn't invent preppy/yuppie... he reported on it and satirized it.

The article is shot through with these kinds of misunderstandings.

Well, what on earth did any of his characters actually "do" in any of his movies? Does it matter? Like art, like life.

Well in the first movie, they're college students. In the second movie the main characters are a naval officer and a manufacturer's representative (salesman). In Last Days of Disco, they're editorial assistants (and later one becomes an editor), advertising execs, nightclub flunkies, an Assistant District Attorney, another lawyer, an IRS agent.

I always assumed that Stillman has made some money on some of the projects that were killed (like the adaptation of Buckley's Little Green Men) and the television pilots mentioned in the First Things interview. He's also done some writing for the Wall Street Journal and elsewhere, a novelization of Last Days and presumably has made some money off of royalties/DVD sales/director's commentary, and in this IFC interview he talks about supervising the Spanish and French versions of Last Days, work he was presumably paid for.
posted by Jahaza at 6:53 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or possibly he could just produce and have the director of that Robert de Niro-Cuba Gooding Jr. navy drama Men of Honor direct it: Whit Stillman presents George Tillman's Walt Whitman (music by Slim Whitman).
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:53 AM on November 19, 2010


but Whit Stillman didn't invent preppy/yuppie...

I think the preferred term is UHB.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:56 AM on November 19, 2010


Loved Barcelona, wanted to swat nearly every character in Metropolitan with a bat.

Those bastards probably grew, up to fucked the economy in the ass, made a mint, then left the rest of us with this economy-shaped smoking hole in the ground. Fuck those ruling class douchebags and their debutante balls.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:49 AM on November 19, 2010


I think it's not really accurate to say that the kids in Metropolitan are "yuppies" or that the movie is part of a "yuppie trilogy." As far as I remember, most of the characters in Metropolitan are rich kids who are born into wealthy families with enormous apartments in NYC. They aren't "young urban professionals," they are just plain wealthy and privileged. In fact, calling them "yuppies" sort of misunderstands the whole point of what they represent. No?
posted by Mid at 7:58 AM on November 19, 2010


Metropolitan is one of my very favorite movies.

It's true that "yuppies" isn't a good word for the characters - for one thing, "yuppie" is an 80s term, and though the film doesn't specify a time period other than a vague recent past, from interviews Stillman has said it's really sort of early 70s, even late 60s.

I sometimes think of the characters as the decline of olden-times aristocracy - they're the modern American equivalent of the assorted rich daughters in Jane Austen novels.
posted by dnash at 8:11 AM on November 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


They aren't "young urban professionals," they are just plain wealthy and privileged.

As Jahaza points out above, this is not true: our viewpoint character in Metropolitan is pointedly not wealthy. I thought the point was that they were overeducated and had nothing to really focus their capacity for thought and analysis on. This why you get a bunch highly articulate people talking about childhood toys and Babar and Disney characters. In retrospect, the movie had nothing to do with the idle rich and everything to do with Generation X. Bear in mind that this thing came out a year before Doug Coupland's book and a couple of years before Hollywood began turning out things like Singles and Reality Bites. Even nominally generationally-defining indie flicks like Slacker and Clerks were still a ways off. One of its closest analogues in its deconstruction of minutiae is Seinfeld but it was still an unremarkable undistinguished sitcom with a minuscule viewership and less than a half-dozen episodes aired.

In short Stillman was way ahead of his time, even as he was drawing inspiration from Jane Austen and Honoré Balzac.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:07 AM on November 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm totally with you that one of the characters was not rich, but the others were very rich, and nobody was a yuppie.
posted by Mid at 11:08 AM on November 19, 2010


From Barcelona:

Woman: You can't say Americans are not more violent than other people.
Fred: No.
Woman: All those people killed in shootings in America?
Fred: Oh, shootings, yes. But that doesn't mean Americans are more violent than other people. We're just better shots.
posted by New Frontier at 2:36 PM on November 19, 2010


Oh, but this is so awesome.
posted by Mid at 7:52 PM on November 19, 2010


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