Ed Driscoll

Interview with Whit Stillman Now Online

If you haven’t seen Whit Stillman’s latest film, Damsels in Distress, over at National Review Online, Thomas Hibbs has a great review:

Stillman has a knack for dialogue that exposes hollow, modern clichés. Concerning the supposition that great works of the past are irrelevant to the contemporary world, consider this exchange from Metropolitan. When a male character asserts, “Almost everything Jane Austen wrote, looked at from today’s perspective, is absurd,” a young woman counters, “Has it ever occurred to you that today looked at from Jane Austen’s perspective would look even worse?” On the admonition that the most important thing in life is to be true to oneself, consider this confessional speech from one of the characters in Disco:

Do you know that Shakespearean admonition “To thine own self be true”? It’s premised on the idea that “thine own self” is pretty good, being true to which is commendable. What if “thine own self” is not so good? What if it’s pretty bad? Would it better, in that case, not to be true to “thine own self”? See? That’s my situation.

Much of the humor in Damsels arises from the arcane, oddly formal way the young women speak and from their naïve idealism. Rose, for example, has picked up a British accent and expresses her suspicion of nearly every male by accusing him of being a “playboy-operator type.” One of the ways Violet and her friends show their commitment to others is through their volunteer work at a Suicide Prevention Center. As they approach the center in one scene, Violet picks up the sign reading “Prevention” and relocates it between the words “Suicide” and “Center” and comments, “We’re trying to make a difference in people’s lives. And one way to do that is to prevent them from killing themselves. . . . Have you ever heard the expression, ‘Prevention is nine-tenths the cure?’ Well, in the case of suicide, it’s actually ten-tenths.”

Read the whole thing, including one of the male students’ ruminations of “The Decline of Decadence.”

And then click here for my interview with Stillman himself, over at the PJ Lifestyle blog.

(Incidentally, I interviewed Hibbs as well, earlier this year. Tune in here for that one.)