Anne Margaret Daniel writes for the Huffington Post about Whit Stillman’s The Cosmopolitans. She also touches on the enduring timeless nature of his debut film, Metropolitan.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, one of his favorite writers and one of the best-known American expatriates of 1920s Paris, has in his work something Stillman admires, and that shows in The Cosmopolitans: “a seductive, wonderfully romantic version of things which I find very appealing.” Yet, as Stillman cautioned in a recent interview, this romantic view is “not comical, and it’s not healthy. It’s really unhealthy.” Fitzgerald could be immensely funny, from his jokes and wordplay to laconic one-liners like one of Nick Carraway’s best, in The Great Gatsby (1925): “As for Tom, the fact that he ‘had some woman in New York’ was really less surprising than that he had been depressed by a book.” Yet in his two great novels written partly in France (Gatsby) and set there (Tender Is The Night), Fitzgerald settled into what he himself called “nostalgia or flight of the heart.”
Most of all, there has to be Paris. Stillman is a master of that Modernist elision, in the joining sense, of character and place. The Cosmopolitans makes Paris a character every bit as much as Manhattan, the Valley of Ashes, and the Eggs are characters in Gatsby, or Dublin is the central character in James Joyce’s Dubliners (1914). The Cosmopolitans is a half hour’s cheap vacation to Paris. Yes, there is much talking in The Cosmopolitans, but the silences are golden: vignettes of the straight 19th century buildings of Rive Gauche; the bateaux-mouches, constant by day and night; the Seine bookstalls; the two a.m. bridges making a City of Light.