Damsels in Distress opens in the UK this Friday (hurrah!) so no doubt there’s more British press on the way, including this article at the Guardian by Michael Newton, who has an interesting comparison:
It is hard, even frightening, to imagine the contemporary British equivalents of Stillman’s movies. The films would be about boarding-school survivors, trustafarians, sloane rangers, a milieu ignored by most native film-makers. Memories of the appalling Oxbridge film Privileged (1982) may arise, but are best repressed. Was there any British film that portrayed the “yuppie” sympathetically? In the past 25 years, a British drama would have to balance the picture by bringing in other classes as parallel or counterpoint, as in Mike Leigh, or retreat to the past like Merchant Ivory, or both, as in Downtown Abbey. The tone could neither be so fond nor so contemporary as Stillman manages, things would be sharper, more obviously satirical. It’s Dickens versus Henry James.
It’s a fairly lengthy, perceptive and generous article about Stillman’s films, and Damsels in particular, and worth a read, especially compared to all those other fairly shallow reviews:
His are courteous comedies; no one is mocked in his films. In Damsels in Distress, when we first come upon the apparent knucklehead, Thor, who does not know the names of the colours, we may wonder if we’re being invited to laugh at his stupidity. When we next hear of him, his ignorance is touchingly, and satirically explained: his parents were so hooked on the idea that precocity is a form of social triumph that they put him in school before he was ready, making him miss out on the last year of nursery, when his peers learned the colours. When Thor finally gets it, and ecstatically points out the colours in the rainbow, the laugh is, I think, on us. After all, when were we last delighted at colour itself?