Sharp-eyed reader Brian Vanhook spotted that Amazon.com has listings for DVD and Blu-ray versions of [Damsels in Distress](https://www.whitstillman.org/wp/films/damsels-in-distress/), with a release date of 31 July, available for pre-order. This prompted me to try other countries, and here are a few links for various Amazons (prices correct at time of writing):
Worth a read is an interesting take on the morality suggested in the movie, from Christopher S. Morrissey at the Catholic World Report:
Stillman never condescends to any of his characters, even the types whom most people prefer to see as unlikable. Hence my suspicion that what Stillman is up to with Thor is not just broad comedy. Rather, Thor’s inability to distinguish primary colors is symbolic of today’s glaring lack of decorous relations between young men and women, whether in the form of dancing or courtship. I think most critics miss this symbolic dimension (which, in Thor’s instance, would amount to a cultural reclamation of the more quotidian “rainbow” symbolism), even though it is undeniably present (arguably as a deliberate product of Stillman’s literary sensitivities). But they miss it because Stillman steadfastly refuses to engage in conventional moralizing when it comes to his characters. Instead, in the most gentle of ways, Stillman makes his comically positive suggestions about how our culture could aspire to so much more.
It’s not that these young women lack intelligence. Rather, it’s that they misuse their intelligence, torturously overthinking everything to remain confident of their intelligence. They’re funny, but underneath we see the agonizing self-doubt that perpetually tunnels away at the back of their minds.
And it’s also finally unclear what Stillman thinks about his characters, which come from the same stock as those of previous films including Metropolitan (1990) and The Last Days of Disco (1998). As the movie progresses, it almost seems that in the end, he regards these young people as lovable innocents, when we can see they are fundamentally unhappy youth hopefully destined for therapy.
Finally, Natalie Elliott at Oxford American takes a long look at “the best female characters to be found in Whit Stillman’s body of work as we know it”. Her picks, which come with clips, are: Metropolitan’s Audrey Rouget; Barcelona’s Montserrat; The Last Days of Disco’s Alice Kinnon and Charlotte Pingress; and, of course, Damsels’ Violet Wister.
I found myself sitting heavy-lidded after those first 45 minutes when it’s clear that Stillman and his kids are comically oh-so-tastefully dressed up with no place in the plot to go. A lot of marking time is done here. …
I wouldn’t have missed Stillman’s extended set-up to his extended gag. I do think, though, the punch line needed work.
Dialogue extraordinaire Whit Stillman was the Diablo Cody of the ’90s and continues here writing sparkling, arch dialogue that can feel “written” and self-conscious. The filmmaker goes for a retro, affectedly odd vibe with his idiosyncratic characters living inside a heightened reality, a bubble of a campus that isn’t far off from Stepford. It’s fascinatingly ethereal and pretty funny for the first half-hour, until it’s just off-putting and goes a long way.
Depending on your perspective and particular sense of humor, Whit Stillman’s brilliant and dryly funny new film may inspire uproarious laughter, gentle sniggers, bemused smirks, yawns of apathy, or, well, all of the above. For this filmgoer, the responses included everything but apathy, and an awakening sense of rediscovery of one of America’s brightest and least productive directors, this being only Stillman’s fourth feature since he debuted with Metropolitan in 1990. We need much more of this kind of smart, subtle artistry in American film.
Finally, Whit Stillman is interviewed by Haden Guest in the latest issue of Film Comment, although the article isn’t available online unfortunately. I thought I’d pull out a paragraph in which Stillman expands on the idea of “flit lit”, referenced in Damsels, but which I don’t think he’s elaborated on at such length elsewhere:
[Harvard professor Walter Jackson] Bate described a trend in criticism in touch with 18th-century traditions. In Damsels we talk about the dandy tradition, the “flit lit” tradition—that is deprecating college slang for something that is important – this tradition that comes down from Johnson to Laurence Sterne to Jonathan Swift, and then to the Oscar Wilde era and eventually Evelyn Waugh, and separately Jane Austen. But Austen is in a sense a female fictional flowering of Dr. Johnson. And then for us the other huge impact was J.D. Salinger and mostly his short stories, like Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and those in the Franny and Zooey collection. When Salinger wrote about his influences, he evoked this great train of dandy literature going right back. I would just add Salinger to this list. Because it’s the people you hysterically admire that really influence you.
Damsels in Distress was released in the US a month ago, so I thought it might be worth having a quick look at how it’s doing. (I’m assuming these figures are accurate; I have no idea.)
The movie has been steadily increasing the number of theatres each week and, as of 6 May, it’s pulled in $621,389 across the country:
Apr 27-May 3
It looks like there was a downturn in the most recent week, with takings down 26.9% despite an increase in theaters. But looking at the results for weekends we can see that the following weekend, things picked up hugely thanks to much wider distribution:
So, takings per screen have been dropping each weekend, but have been more than made up for as the number of theaters has multiplied. I’m guessing this is a pretty standard pattern for reasonably slow-growing movies.
The only figures for other countries are for the UK, where Damsels had pulled in $138,159 as of 6th May. I’m not sure how it’s doing over here, although in London it’s been in fewer cinemas each week. On the third weekend, Google Movies is only listing it in three cinemas in the city. It would be interesting to see how it goes in other countries.