It's not easy being a fan of Whit Stillman's. We fall for Metropolitan in 1990, get an international treat 4 years later with Barcelona, and then The Last Days of Disco another 4 years after that. Eleven years since, we're still waiting for a fourth -- for any of the many projects on Stillman's plate to come to actual fruition and reach our eager eyes. Granted, it could be worse. Three fun films and silence is probably better than filmmakers who continue to throw out work that doesn't begin to meet their early success, or directors who jump into an entirely different path and leave behind the beloved work that gave them their name.
All this said, there is a new treat today for Stillman fans -- Criterion's release of The Last Days of Disco.
It's perfect for a double-header with the previously released Metropolitan, but I wonder about other possibilities. What films are good if you want a whole weekend of Stillmanesque fun, or want to pair Whit with another filmmaker, or just want more options to dig into until Little Green Men hits the screen? Or, outside of Stillman's world completely: What if you just want overly verbose kids who can do nothing more than talk, youths who try to play dress-up seriously, 80s yuppies who are more obsessed with status than genuine life, or dips into the foreign allure of Catalonia?
Kicking and Screaming
The Close Replica
Not to be confused with the Will Ferrell comedy, Noah Baumbach's first film feels like another look into Stillman's world -- and not just because Chris Eigeman is one of the stars. Detailing post-college life in the 90s, Kicking spends most of its time watching early 20-somethings banter rather than living their lives. They cling to college, not yet ready to leave their alma mater, not ready to make a decision about their future. Like many of Stillman's characters, they're intelligent, but not really smart. Words flow off their tongue with ease, but actual knowledge and experience are nowhere to be seen. Living is in the abstract.
Vicky Cristina Barcelona
Going Back to Catalonia
Woody Allen's adventure in Barcelona follows a similar path to Stillman's take on the city -- without the overabundant anti-American sentiment that Eigeman's Fred faces. Two young men are switched for women, but there's still the experience with uptight North American life and love smashing against European freedom and romance -- "countercultural" foreign paramours and a European "sexual revolution."
There's never torrents of blood in Whit Stillman's work, but without Patrick Bateman's sadistic, murdering ways, he and his co-workers could slip quite easily into The Last Days of Disco and Stillman's New York-based yuppies obsessed with the finer things in life. And it's not just for their young, upwardly mobile ways -- surely a man who can discuss and revel in the finer points of Phil Collins' 80s music (very NSFW link) would be at home in a chat about Scrooge McDuck's sexiness.
Heading to the Work Force
Disco saw Chloe Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale trying to maneuver their way through post-college life both at work and living on their own in a rather small railroad apartment. Singles wraps its leads in plaid and does the same thing for the grunge generation. They struggle with the desire to hit it big and get ahead; each has ridiculous roommate situations, and both suffer from a good dose of romantic dysfunction.
House of Yes
Playing Dress-Up Adult
It wouldn't be a far stretch of the imagination to envision House of Yes as a Whit Stillman production. There might not be a Kennedy-fueled incestuous relationship to make things interesting, but Mark Waters' film definitely taps into a world where young men and women dress up in mom and dad's clothes and try to embody mature sophistication -- fancy attire for a homecooked meal, scathing banter, liebfraumilch, hoit- toity ways.
Bright Young Things
Young War-Time Overindulgence
Stephen Fry's adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Vile Bodies is like grabbing the self-indulgent, upper-class youth from Stillman's Manhattan (both Metropolitan and Disco) and throwing them into the turmoil of World War II. The first part of this review says it all: "Picture the 'Inferno' party. There's music, dancing, exotic costumes, cocaine and sex, all bathed in lurid red light. 'Isn't this too dull?', asks Miles. Nina, dancing frantically, replies 'I've never been so bored in all my life.'" It's a comment that could fit both Disco and Things easily.
And the Final Spot...
Okay, I'm cheating here, throwing the question out to you. I've too many options for the final spot, and nothing seems quite right. Something from Richard Linklater's roster should be present, but his take on banter and discussion is quite different than Stillman's. I could imagine what these sarcastic young people would act like in 10 years with Roger Dodger. Or link the talks of literature and poetry to Henry Fool. Maybe link a family adventure in a strange land to Darjeeling Limited. But they all seem a little off, so who would you throw into the final spot?