Criterion has top ten lists for filmmakers and people in media to list their top ten Criterion films. Here are a few of those, with Whit Stillman’s films.
Highly quotable, incredibly hilarious, and remarkably intelligent. Had the pleasure of going to a Q&A with Stillman at the Cinefamily after a screening of this film. I was giddy the whole night. Also read on IMDb that he is an Aquarius. Not sure what that means, but cool.
Perhaps the first film I truly fell in love with. One of the most brilliant scripts ever. I can’t wait for Whit Stillman’s latest.
Meanwhile, Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan is a seminal movie for me and a whole bunch of other people of my generation. Speaking of party tricks, evoking empathy for Upper East Side WASPs is a good one. Same with Barcelona.
As a person who enjoys movies about rich people with personal problems, I am obviously very fond of the collected works of Whit Stillman. This one, his first, is talky and romantic and features a baby-faced Chris Eigeman—that alone is worth the price of admission.
I walked cold into this film, knowing nothing about it, when it first ran in the theaters back in 1990, and was utterly charmed by it. I’ve since watched it many times. A witty film but also touched with an elegiac quality because of its underlying theme of the passing of an era. Every time I watch it, I wish I were more like the character of Nick Smith. I love his narcissistic arrogance.
The Last Days of Disco:
One of the greatest, funniest, and truest reflections on trying to become an adult, The Last Days of Disco is also one of three movies that have the most lines of dialogue perpetually floating around in my head (the other two being A Night at the Opera and Clueless). Right now I’m thinking of Chris Eigeman telling his friends, “I wish we were yuppies. Young, upwardly mobile, professional. Those are good things, not bad things.”
When I first saw this, in Akron, Ohio, I thought, That’s a good movie. I saw it again after I moved to New York. It obliterated my mind. These people still exist.
I mean, all of them. I remember the first night my parents let me stay home alone I rented Metropolitan for the sexy VHS cover—I stayed up till morning trying to talk like those characters. And The Last Days of Disco is low-key brutal in its honesty about post-college party life. But man, everything really clicks into place with Barcelona—Cold War Spain, super early Mira Sorvino, prime Chris Eigeman, the stylish but not mannered cinematography, a broad eighties definition of “jazz.”
I’ve been thinking about what’s so liberatingly beautiful about Stillman’s dialogue. It’s how everyone is trying to be so precise—and hearing that thought process is very rare in films. And how that extreme precision generates its own excesses and poetic absurdism. Like the crystalline moment:
“Plays, novels, songs, they all have a subtext, which I take to mean a hidden message or import of some kind . . . So subtext, we know . . . But what do you call . . . what’s above the subtext?”
“OK, that’s right, but they never talk about that.”
*See her Metropolitan listing