326, 485, 807 A Whit Stillman Trilogy

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ben d banana
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326, 485, 807 A Whit Stillman Trilogy

#1 Post by ben d banana » Tue Oct 04, 2005 10:03 pm

A Whit Stillman Trilogy: Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco, Barcelona

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Over the course of the 1990s, writer-director Whit Stillman made a trilogy of films about the acid tongues and broken hearts of some haplessly erudite young Americans in New York and abroad. Set in the eighties, these films would trace the arc of that decade, led by Stillman's Oscar-nominated debut, Metropolitan, which introduced moviegoers to a strange, endangered species of privileged New Yorker dubbed the "urban haute bourgeoisie." Chronologically, the tale continues with The Last Days of Disco, in which, with an earnest wink, Stillman mourns the close of New York's nightclub era via the story of two young party-going women juggling day jobs in book publishing. Finally, Barcelona plunks down a pair of love-starved upper-class men in a foreign city riddled with anti-American sentiment. At once effervescent and melancholy, these are comedies about the ends of eras, social change as seen through the eyes of reluctant, unflaggingly sardonic romantics.

Metropolitan

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One of the great American independent films of the 1990s, writer-director Whit Stillman's surprise hit Metropolitan is a sparkling comedic chronicle of a middle-class young man's romantic misadventures among New York City's debutante society. Stillman's deft, literate dialogue and hilariously highbrow observations earned this debut film an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Alongside the wit and sophistication, though, lies a tender tale of adolescent anxiety.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION

• New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Audio commentary by Stillman, editor Christopher Tellefsen, and actors Christopher Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
• Rare outtakes and alternate casting, with commentary by Stillman
• PLUS: A new essay by critic Luc Sante

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The Last Days of Disco

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The Last Days of Disco is a clever, comic return to the nighttime party scene in early Eighties Manhattan from director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan). At the center of the film's roundelay of revelers are the icy Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) and the demure Alice (Chloë Sevigny), by day toiling as publishing house assistants and by night looking for romance and entertainment at a premier, Studio 54–like club. The Last Days of Disco is an affectionate yet unsentimental look at the end of an era, brimming with Stillman's trademark dry humor.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION
• New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director Whit Stillman, with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
• Audio commentary by Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Chloë Sevigny
• Four deleted scenes, with commentary by Stillman, Eigeman, and Sevigny
• Audio recording of Stillman reading a chapter from his book The Last Days of Disco, with Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards
• Behind-the-scenes featurette
• Stills gallery, with captions by Stillman
• Trailer
• PLUS: A new essay by novelist David Schickler

Criterionforum.org user rating averages




Barcelona

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Whit Stillman followed his delightful indie breakthrough Metropolitan with another clever and garrulous comedy of manners, this one with a darker edge. A pair of preppy yet constitutionally mismatched American cousins—a salesman and a navy officer—argue about romance and politics while working in the beautiful Spanish city of the film's title. Set during the eighties, Barcelona explores topics both heady (American exceptionalism, Cold War foreign policy) and hilarious (the ins and outs of international dating, the proper shaving method) while remaining a constantly witty delight, featuring a sharp young cast that includes Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, and Mira Sorvino.

DIRECTOR-APPROVED SPECIAL EDITION:

• New, restored 2K digital transfer, supervised by director Whit Stillman and cinematographer John Thomas, with 2.0 surround DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray
• Audio commentary from 2002 featuring Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
• New video essay by film critic Farran Smith Nehme about the trilogy made up of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco
The Making of "Barcelona," a short documentary from 1994 featuring behind-the-scenes footage and on-set interviews with Stillman and cast members
• Deleted scenes and alternate ending, with commentary by Stillman, Eigeman, and Nichols
• Segment from a 1994 episode of the Today show featuring Stillman
• Episode of The Dick Cavett Show from 1991 with Stillman
• Trailer
• PLUS: An essay by film scholar Haden Guest

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#2 Post by Doctor Sunshine » Wed Oct 05, 2005 12:39 am

ben d banana wrote:
matt wrote:Oh, dammit. What did I used to say I'd do if Criterion released a Whit Stillman film? Set myself on fire? Sell all my Criterions? Whatever it was, I hope nobody holds me to it.
I do believe it was both.

While I'm not nearly as anti-Stillman as Matt, and seemingly a good half of the people who've seen his films, I am more miffed about the lack of similar "respect" shown to just as obvious, and to my mind much more deserving, contemporary American directors/movies such as David O. Russell's Spanking The Monkey and Todd Solondz first three efforts (only on VHS or non-anamorphic DVD).

And yes, of course, I'm well aware that at least some of those may well be owned by companies who don't license to Criterion.
Metropolitan trailer

Is the movie that bad? It looks like a Harvard-graduate-Kevin Smith movie minus anything that's funny. I fear this acquisition.

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#3 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Wed Oct 05, 2005 1:04 am

I know it's hardly L'eclisse, but I feel like this forum is giving Metropolitan a pretty rough treatment just because it isn't deemed "Criterion Worthy" more than for any specific faults. For interested parties, our good friend Fletch recently posted a nice article on the film. You can find that article here.

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#4 Post by daniel p » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:24 am

Doctor Sunshine wrote:Metropolitan trailer
Is the movie that bad? It looks like a Harvard-graduate-Kevin Smith movie minus anything that's funny. I fear this acquisition.
My god, this must not be it. It looks shockingly bad.

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#5 Post by CSM126 » Wed Oct 05, 2005 7:03 am

Doctor Sunshine wrote:Metropolitan trailer

Is the movie that bad? It looks like a Harvard-graduate-Kevin Smith movie minus anything that's funny. I fear this acquisition.

Well heck, I got a good chuckle out of some of the stuff in that trailer. But, really, trailers are oft quite deceiving. I'm interested enough to see this flick when the disc comes out.

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#6 Post by jorencain » Wed Oct 05, 2005 7:26 am

CSM126 wrote:But, really, trailers are oft quite deceiving.
As I said in another thread, I hope that is true of Woody Allen's new film as well, whose trailer is pretty terrible.

Maybe the acting in "Metropolitan" works better in context, but that truly looks terrible. I always want to give Criterion the benefit of the doubt, though, and assume that there must be SOME reason for them to include it in the collection.

Anyway, I hoped that the trivia contest would be a monthly feature, but I guess not. Bummer.

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#7 Post by Ishmael » Wed Oct 05, 2005 8:10 am

Doctor Sunshine wrote:Is the movie that bad? It looks like a Harvard-graduate-Kevin Smith movie minus anything that's funny. I fear this acquisition.
A more apt comparison would be to Woody Allen. It's very similar to Woody's 80s work, except that it deals with a different social class. The acting is a bit stiff, but I think the film has a lot of charm. Obviously, I am alone in that last assessment.
John E quoting Rosenbaum wrote:"t's equally impossible to tell from the brilliant and deceptively simple mise en scene how much is straight documentary and how much contrived fiction.

This is Rosenbaum's greatest hobby horse. The man cannot get enough of films that mix documentary and fiction. See, for example, any of his reviews of Kiarostami or Hou Hsiao-Hsien. He overlooks any other flaws in a film if the filmmaker makes even a token effort to blend the real and the fictional. At this point, any time he brings this subject up it automatically invalidates his opinion for me.

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#8 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Oct 05, 2005 9:34 am

Ishmael wrote:
Doctor Sunshine wrote:Is the movie that bad? It looks like a Harvard-graduate-Kevin Smith movie minus anything that's funny. I fear this acquisition.
A more apt comparison would be to Woody Allen. It's very similar to Woody's 80s work, except that it deals with a different social class. The acting is a bit stiff, but I think the film has a lot of charm. Obviously, I am alone in that last assessment.
I'd like to chime in as a supporter of Metropolitan. It is, without a doubt, my favorite Stillman film. Yeah, the acting is a little stiff but as you say it does have a lot of charm and works on a definite Woody Allenesque vibe that I find totally engaging. And, IMO, Chris Eigeman steals every scene -- I mean, he gets all of the best lines in the movie -- "Playing strip poker with an exhibitionist somehow takes the challenge out of it." :)

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#9 Post by justeleblanc » Wed Oct 05, 2005 9:54 am

This is great news! I love METROPOLITAN and I'm saddened that Whit stopped making films, or at least it seems.

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#10 Post by kappoka » Wed Oct 05, 2005 10:04 am

A few thoughts on recent posts:
Please do not compare 80's Woody Allen to Metropolitan. It makes you sound silly. Exactly what 80's Woody forms the comparison? Zelig, Stardust Memories, Danny Rose, Purple Rose?
I would not go as far as saying that it is the worst film ever made, I'm sure all of us could think of 25-50 right off the bat, but it is not--without a doubt Criterion worthy. And it is not about being a snob or a film-nazi. We have grown accustomed to expecting nothing but the best from CC. Most of their titles are worthy of our praise and live up to their statement/creed of offering nothing but the best. I love when they serve up a title I had never seen and immediately becomes a treasure, like Rififi, Browning Version, Flowers of St. Francis etc...Please rent or buy Metropolitan on some garage sale before you consider spending money on the CC version.
On why Criterion would include it--- I am sure there is some reason why they would include it. There always is--he is still active in the film world in NY, although he has not made any thing in several years. Perhaps he has an admirer in the Criterion staff that wants to enlarge the Stillman cult. Maybe they are out of ideas for American directors they can acquire/include in the collection.

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#11 Post by Ishmael » Wed Oct 05, 2005 10:27 am

kappoka wrote: Please do not compare 80's Woody Allen to Metropolitan. It makes you sound silly. Exactly what 80's Woody forms the comparison? Zelig, Stardust Memories, Danny Rose, Purple Rose?
Metropolitan has the same charm, literacy, and light feeling masking deeper meanings as the movies Woody made from Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy through Radio Days. If I think Metropolitan is ever so slightly less brilliant than Woody's films, it's probably only because Woody's body of work is greater than Stillman's.
On why Criterion would include it--- I am sure there is some reason why they would include it. There always is--he is still active in the film world in NY, although he has not made any thing in several years. Perhaps he has an admirer in the Criterion staff that wants to enlarge the Stillman cult. Maybe they are out of ideas for American directors they can acquire/include in the collection
Why must everyone make this tedious argument? The film has fans who consider it a high quality, artistic, cult item. You don't like, don't buy it. You don't have anything interesting to say about it (positive or negative), go post in another thread.

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#12 Post by Ted Todorov » Wed Oct 05, 2005 12:23 pm

I am a big fan of Whit Stillman and I am very happy about Metropolitan.

Yes it is a very low budget, grainy film, but there is a great deal of intelligence behind it. I think that the apt comparison for Stillman is Eric Rohmer, not Woody Allen. Their themes, approach, deadpan/offhand humor and intelligence all have common threads. No, I am not saying that Stillman, with his three movies, is in the same league as Rohmer.

Certainly Stillman is the least prolific filmmaker that I know of. He is also a little ... off. I saw him presenting The Last Days of Disco at the Cinematheque in Paris and he is in person what you would imagine from his movies -- well dressed, intelligent, spoke French well ... and said that he was in Paris working on a novel (book) version of The Last Days of Disco.

When I got back to NY, I found out the book had been published at least a year earlier. Very, very strange...

I do wish he would make another movie.

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#13 Post by Tribe » Wed Oct 05, 2005 12:45 pm

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For the life of me, I never knew Slim Whitman ever directed any movies.

Wait a minute...

Tribe

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#14 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Oct 05, 2005 1:01 pm

Ted Todorov wrote:Certainly Stillman is the least prolific filmmaker that I know of. He is also a little ... off. I saw him presenting The Last Days of Disco at the Cinematheque in Paris and he is in person what you would imagine from his movies -- well dressed, intelligent, spoke French well ... and said that he was in Paris working on a novel (book) version of The Last Days of Disco.

When I got back to NY, I found out the book had been published at least a year earlier. Very, very strange...

I do wish he would make another movie.
Yeah, as posted in another thread (viewtopic.php?t=2600), the last word was that Stillman was working on a Jane Austen adaptation but that has been awhile ago so what he's up to is anybody's guess.

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#15 Post by kappoka » Wed Oct 05, 2005 1:12 pm

I enjoy a good old-fashioned film discussion/argument Ishmael. By you saying "you don't like it, don't buy it" ends the fun of the discussion. It's too easy like that and we are diverting attention from the main point which is Metropolitan, or I'll take it a step further, Whit Stillman is not even close to what Criterion 'supposedly' represents. We are strictly talking about the Criterion Collection. If Image, or No-Shame or whoever holds the films' distribution rights wants to release his work as super Double Disc director's cuts--Great!
But again, it is not worthy of Criterion, no matter what you think of his films.

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#16 Post by benm » Wed Oct 05, 2005 1:44 pm

kappoka - i'm not sure how saying "no matter what you think" is any different from saying "you don't like it, don't buy it". both close off any discussion.

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.

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#17 Post by Ishmael » Wed Oct 05, 2005 1:55 pm

kappoka wrote:By you saying "you don't like it, don't buy it" ends the fun of the discussion.
No it doesn't, because I invited negative as well as positive comments about the movie. The only thing I said was pointless were comments like the one Matt is mocking me with. Those aren't discussion comments, they're just position statements. (Although Matt is certainly right about their fine tradition.) By the same token, I can't stand when people post "Metropolitan! Hell, yeah!" It's not what is being said, it's the pointlessness of saying it.

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#18 Post by Gigi M. » Wed Oct 05, 2005 2:12 pm

kappoka wrote:I enjoy a good old-fashioned film discussion/argument Ishmael. By you saying "you don't like it, don't buy it" ends the fun of the discussion. It's too easy like that and we are diverting attention from the main point which is Metropolitan, or I'll take it a step further, Whit Stillman is not even close to what Criterion 'supposedly' represents. We are strictly talking about the Criterion Collection. If Image, or No-Shame or whoever holds the films' distribution rights wants to release his work as super Double Disc director's cuts--Great!
But again, it is not worthy of Criterion, no matter what you think of his films.
Even dough I agree with your argument 100% of "you don't like it, don't buy it ends the fun of the discussion", I don't believe a film is not worthy of a Criterion release because is a mediocre or an inferior film. I like the way Criterion choose the films they believe are important to them and to their collectors.

Take the now OOP Morrisseys titles for example. As much ass I like Blood for Dracula and Flesh for Frankenstein, these films are not even close "to what Criterion really represents". However, I do believe they have some interesting elements of the era they were made and belong to a great line of cult films.

In the case of Metropolitan, I don't think is a great film. Stillman got a best screenplay nomination at the Oscar and it was name one the best films of that year. Probably Criterion thinks is a film worthy of their “Prestigious Collectionâ€

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#19 Post by kappoka » Wed Oct 05, 2005 2:26 pm

I didn't say 'no matter what you think' as an end to the discussion. I said it because whether you like his films or hate his films or somewhere in the middle, it does not constitute inclusion in the prestigious CC. I do not consider Stillman less of a director because he made few films-- and enough with the comparison with Woody Allen! Stillman should be compared to early Spike Lee or Edward Burns or perhaps Singleton. Somewhere along those lines...then I could find the comparison more digestable. A box set of She's Gotta Have It/Brothers McMullen/Metropolitan would be welcomed by alot of people. Just don't make it part of the Criterion Collection.

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#20 Post by Matt » Wed Oct 05, 2005 2:54 pm

Perhaps it would be better if we positioned this as a discussion about what makes the movie good for those who like it and what makes it bad for those who hate it. Arguing about whether or not a film is Criterion-worthy has pretty much been a dead-end discussion for years. The only people who can deem a film Criterion-worthy are those on the Criterion staff.

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#21 Post by Andre Jurieu » Wed Oct 05, 2005 3:14 pm

I don't condone animal cruelty, but I wish the sacred 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.

Obviously someone at Criterion figured Metropolitan has some form of artistic merit. More importantly, they figured the film could use a Special Edition DVD, and they decided to exploit that opportunity so that they could sell such a DVD for profits. The ideal is that Criterion only release artistic masterpieces. The reality is that they release Special Editions DVDs of various types of films, and that they have found success in a niche market.

Also, could we stop going back to the mission statement all the time? It's primary function is as internal guideline to employees and its secondary function is marketing. You have to go a long way down its list of functions to find "sacred promise to Criterion fanboys". Even if you did want to say it's false advertising, I doubt you could ever prove your case that some film you despise is not "worthy" of Criterion because we are talking about art, and artistic merit is about the most abstract concept there is.
Last edited by Andre Jurieu on Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#22 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Wed Oct 05, 2005 3:16 pm

kappoka wrote:If Image, or No-Shame or whoever holds the films' distribution rights wants to release his work as super Double Disc director's cuts--Great! But again, it is not worthy of Criterion, no matter what you think of his films.
The problem with this argument is that it falls into the common misconception that the Criterion Collection is some sort of DVD film awards, and that it acts outside and above the commercial DVD industry. It's not like Fox and Sony and Kino and Water Bearer all get together over coffee and say, "Y'know, I'd love to put out this movie, but it's just too good for our catalog. I really think we should hand it over to Criterion. What do you guys think?" By the same token, the Criterion Collection doesn't pick their titles off of stone tablets. People in the company make decisions based on aesthetic evaluations, personal judgments, market feasibility, availability, etc. Debating Metropolitan's Criterion-worthiness is useless and directionless. It's not a question that can be answered objectively, and it doesn't make for particularly interesting discussion.

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#23 Post by backstreetsbackalright » Wed Oct 05, 2005 3:19 pm

I think Andre just posted pretty much everything I hoped to while I was composing the above....

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#24 Post by Andre Jurieu » Wed Oct 05, 2005 3:46 pm

backstreetsbackalright wrote:I think Andre just posted pretty much everything I hoped to while I was composing the above....
Actually, I liked your explanation much better, especially the self-effacing meeting by rival companies.

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#25 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Wed Oct 05, 2005 4:23 pm

kappoka wrote:I enjoy a good old-fashioned film discussion/argument Ishmael. By you saying "you don't like it, don't buy it" ends the fun of the discussion. It's too easy like that and we are diverting attention from the main point which is Metropolitan, or I'll take it a step further, Whit Stillman is not even close to what Criterion 'supposedly' represents.
And Armageddon does? The Rock does? C'mon! What Andre Jurieu has said so eloquently and better than I ever could pretty much nails it. Only the folks who make the decisions at Criterion can decide what they represent or do not. I'm sure we could all find a title (or two) in the entire Criterion Collection that would we would deem not worthy of what they supposedly represent.

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