Saturday, November 28, 2015
JEFF OF THE CINEFILES & UNFINISHED BUSINESS: HALL OF FAME: FILE #0043: METROPOLITAN (1990)
Written & Directed By: Whit Stillman
Cinematography By: John Thomas
Editor: Chris Tellefsen
Cast: Chris Eigman, Carolyn Farina, Edward Clements, Tyalor Nichols, Isabel Gilles, Will Kempe, Dylan Hundley, Donal Lardner Ward
*Please note that some trivia and facts have been republished from imdb among other sources In this review
In an apartment on Manhattan a couple of friends from the New York upper-class meet almost every night to talk about social mobility, play bridge and discuss Fourier's socialism; the cynic Nick, the philosophical Charlie, party girl Sally and austenite Audrey. They are joined by Tom. His background is much simpler and he is critical of their way of life. But he finds a soul mate in Audrey, who without his knowledge falls in love with him.
Watching this film is almost like watching a foreign film. At least to me, it's like watching a culture I've heard about and rarely saw. Being taken into their inner circle for a spell. Seeing how they survive and exist. It's a culture shock that's interesting to visit and to be around, but I'm not sure i would want to live here.
While I admire the film and love the film. It isn't the easiest to sit through at first as you have to tune into it's wavelength. Once you do it is nothing but rewarding as it goes along.
I believe the theme down in the heart of the film is disillusionment. As the group has ideals and ideas. They are close knit, but as time goes on in a short amount of time. Even though they have all grown up together and gone to school with one another. They disintegrate so quickly and harshly. It's almost downright heartbreaking. It is understandable wanting to leave the best and spread your wings, but do you have to crap on everything while doing it?
The film takes place over debutante season. The last for these characters. As they fall in and out of love. Define friendship and have spirited discussions. This is a comedy but more a verbal one. It is very dialogue driven and could almost be a play. Though there are a lot of exterior shots. The dialogue is sharp and ringed with humor. There are plenty of memorable one-liners and monologues.
The film is like an aristocratic Kevin Smith film with better production design and more highbrow humor.
This was the first film for almost all of the young cast. For instance , The female lead of Audrey was cast after the director's wife ran into Carolyn Farina while shopping at the Macy's store where Farina was working at the perfume section. She had no previous acting experience. Unfortunately This was the last film for most of the cast. Only three or four of the cast went on to have careers as actors. Again for instance, Clements, who played Tom Townsend, only acted in one more movie. He became a born-again Christian after the film and is now a pastor in Toronto.
The film while dealing in reality. Does feel a bit like a fairy tale to a degree. Though truthful arguably Most of Stillman's films do. I don't mean that as an insult. I mean it in the best ways possible. As they are set In a recognizable contemporary setting. The language used and the characters wit and vocabulary. Feel like a dream world that you wish you could inhabit. They feel more like homages to the classic film or contemporary classics. As the characters also all dress very well and are mannered to a degree. That comes off as classic charm mixed with a bit of screwball cornet only not as madcap. So that it feels like a timeless trip to a bygone era. That could be set in any recent decade. As they never specify years. Almost like an urban metropolis dream. Though there are pesky traces of the real world that always their head. It still feels like romantic fantasy without being outright annoyingly sweet. As these love stories sometimes end well some end not as happy. Yet no matter what everyone pretty much leaves with a smile on their face. Including the audience.
Even though the film gets a bit tedious at times. The film is a perfect length.
The scene-stealer of the film is Chris Eigman. Who I am surprised didn't become a star after this film (Though happy to see him on GILMORE GIRLS) he is witty, hilarious, good looking. Like one of those classic movie stars of the 1930's up to the 1960's.
I somewhat wish that I could live in this world of martini's, high balls, formal wear, intellectual conversations of seemingly minutiae and the power it has on society though nothing really important. Cigarettes, society balls and a few parties. Dinner and otherwise. Even if just for a limited time for the experience. Something you could do for a weekend or two. Like when you visit a renaissance fair, or one of those historically accurate villages, Or a civil war reenactment weekend. Just to see it and experience it. Even if not entirely realtor accurate. Giving off the vibe and glamour.
I love all of Whit Stillman's films but this was is the one i find consistently charming. Though I will warn this film isn't for everyone. Some might consider it too waspy.
I find director Whit Stillman to be an enigma still to me. The film is autobiographical and for a while he only made two more films. BARCELONA and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. Then dropped off the map. There were rumors of projects here and there, but nothing came to fruition. He resurfaced to record the audio commentary for this film when it was finally released on DVD through Criterion. He claims he has never stopped writing and was ready to film 3 new scripts then he seemed to drop off the map again... Until he made the film DAMSELS IN DISTRESS and then a Amazon pilot for the series THE COSMOPOLITANS
He is a director with obvious talent and a style all his own. He is an auteur for sure. With an original different voice and you can tell by many details. When a particular film is his own. Leaving him with to status of an auteur in my book at least. Maybe it is best her he left with 4 jewels instead of starting to get stale or make inaccessible lumps of coal.
He still is an enigma as he doesn't get interviewed a lot. Nor does he seem to be held in high regard as a director who cinephiles are wondering what is his next project and was never popular enough to have too many rumors persist to keep his name out there and constantly being updated.
I like that the ending is almost a perfect simile to the female lead characters favorite books by Jane Austen.
The funny thing is when I first saw this films trailer. When I was 15, I had no interest at all. I thought it looked boring and pretentious, but as I got older and saw the movie being advertised on FLIX the cable channel. It peaked my interest and when I finally watched it. It blew me away more than meeting my expectations. To be honest I thought the film was going to end up boring after all, but it managed to soothe me.
It's a love letter to a long lost time. Those magic hours of youth. Where you are no longer and teenager, yet not an adult either. Though expected almost to act like one and know your definite future. Though you are really still trying to cure things out and bluffing to older adults. The film feels of it’s own time. Like it is my trying to impress anyone. It lives in it's own universe. Speaks it's own language. That is so out of the ordinary. It can't help but be itself and different to most. In the margins of the look of classic Hollywood films. Though there is nothing else like it.