Tag Archives: dancing

Carl’s Rock Songbook #70: Social Dancing as a Key to Whit Stillman’s Films

Carl Scott from First Things writes:

Whit Stillman fans know that his first three films are a loosely connected trilogy of sorts, with THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO being the film that ties them together by means of our meeting key characters from the other two in its Club. How then, does his recent DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, a rather stranger film and one made more than a decade after the others, work with the earlier films?

The way I propose is that it caps off another trilogy, a more thematic one concerned with social dance. This trilogy is composed of METROPOLITAN’s portrayal of the debutante dance scene in late 60s or very early 70s, THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO’s re-evaluation of the disco scene of the late 70s and very early 80s, and DAMSELS IN DISTRESS’s consideration of how hard it is to start a dance craze in contemporary times. So BARCELONA is the odd film out.




The dancing and fashion of Whit Stillman

I guess it’s a good sign if people are coming up with ideas for articles based around a new movie, that aren’t simply reviews and interviews.

Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody
Damsels in Distress: Greta Gerwig and Adam Brody

Slate’s “culture blog” Browbeat has a post all about dancing in Stillman’s movies, starting with a quote from Chris Eigeman at a recent event:

Eigeman persisted. “I do think that dancing, for you,” he told Stillman, “is sort of perfect in a way, because on the one front, it’s this very codified way of genders intermixing. It’s both intimate but very, very public.”

“The other thing,” Eigeman added a moment later, “is that you look incredibly silly when you do it.”

No Stillman movie has demonstrated Eigeman’s observations more clearly than Damsels in Distress, which features drunken frat-party dancing, line dancing, tap dancing, Broadway-style dancing, and a brand new, Stillman-invented “international dance craze” known as the Sambola! (The exclamation point is part of the name. So is “international dance craze.”) But throughout his 22-year, four-film cinematic career, Stillman has repeatedly turned to dancing for its potential as a narrative allegory, as a plot device, and as a remnant of the old social order he seems to long for. And also, yes, to underscore his characters’ lovable eccentricities.

The Canadian National Post also has an article about dancing, ‘Our favourite cinematic dance steps, inspired by Damsels in Distress’, although almost none of the writing is about Damsels, or Stillman’s other films.

Four women
Damsels in Distress: Echikunwoke, MacLemore, Gerwig, Tipton

Meanwhile, Dhani Mau at the Fashionista blog has a post about the fashion of the women in Stillman’s films:

The reason why Stillman’s girls are so appealing isn’t because they’re wearing on-trend designer labels or overstyled and fashion-y, but because their looks are grounded in the reality of how girls actually want to look. At the same time there’s an easy elegance to it that is hard for us regular people to achieve.

They also have a slideshow of ten stills from Stillman’s movies and brief suggestions for how to match the looks of Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Greta Gerwig, et al (although it is somewhat overwhelmed by an animated ad for Avengers Assemble…).