August 14, 2015

KYLE SMITH ON THE ENDURING APPEAL OF WHIT STILLMAN’S METROPOLITAN ON ITS 25th ANNIVERSARY:

What is so offbeat about Stillman’s film is the sense of fragility shared by his upper-class characters, who vaguely detect a harsh reality out there that is preparing to shut down their rituals. Stillman has said that the script was inspired by his own experiences as a Harvard student circa 1969, when Vietnam and other sources of turmoil began to gnaw away at the foundations of debutante culture. Metropolitan, though it takes place two decades later, shares that wistful feeling of the end of an era, as indeed do Stillman’s similarly-toned next two films, Barcelona (1994), in which the gap between European and American political attitudes is becoming a gulf, and The Last Days of Disco (1998), set in the very early 1980s when the dance-club atmosphere beloved by preppies starts to fray.

The left hated the 1980s, but in many ways, it was awesome decade; Metropolitan is the perfect swan song for one element of it.

(For my 2012 podcast interview with Stillman on his film Damsels in Distress, click here. And for my look back at The Last Days of Disco, click here.)

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