Not So Long Ago: The Films of Whit Stillman
Whit Stillman wrote, directed and produced three sparkling comedies during the 1990s, each distinguished by witty dialogue, arch intellectual riffing and an insider-y, gently farcical exploration of class anxiety. Then, nothing. Despite word of promising projects — a Revolutionary War picture, a Jane Austen adaptation — Stillman did not direct another film through the 2000s, a decade-plus-long drought.
Finally, in 2011, fans of the erudite auteur had reason to rejoice when Stillman made his long-anticipated return with DAMSELS IN DISTRESS, which premiered as the Closing Night film at the Venice Film Festival and will be released this spring.*
To welcome the return of this uniquely talented filmmaker, AFI Silver presents a retrospective of Stillman's elegantly hilarious — and extremely re-watchable comedies of manners.
* Just announced: Sneak preview of DAMSELS IN DISTRESS with Whit Stillman and actress Greta Gerwig in person, March 29. Click here for info and tickets.
Whit Stillman's sparkling comedic debut earned the director multiple accolades including a Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination. A middle-class Manhattanite from the Upper West Side falls in with a clique of upper-class Upper East Siders during the busy debutante ball and holiday season; amid the ensuing drinking, debating and comedic class anxiety come the pangs of love, self-discovery and the first fumblings toward growing up.
DIR/SCR/PROD Whit Stillman. US, 1990, color, 98 min. RATED PG-13
Sat, Mar 24, 9:40; Mon, Mar 26, 7:00
"You seem very intelligent for an American." "Well, I'm not." Taylor Nichols is an innocent abroad, posted to the Barcelona office of his Chicago manufacturing firm, and anxious about his future. His cousin Chris Eigeman, a Navy Lieutenant, arrives in town to scout for trouble ahead of the Sixth Fleet's upcoming shore leave. Eigeman's preferred methods of reconnaissance are carousing in the bars and clubs, flirting with the "trade show girls" and fighting the good fight against the locals' reflexive anti-Americanism — he's a pain in the ass who's just the kick in the pants that Ted needs.
DIR/SCR/PROD Whit Stillman. US, 1994, color, 101 min. RATED PG-13
THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO
Sun, Mar 25, 7:30; Mon, Mar 26, 9:05; Tue, Mar 27, 9:00
"It's really important there be more group social life. Not just all this ferocious pairing off." In early 1980s Manhattan, Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny are entry-level publishing assistants by day, upscale disco habitués by night, navigating the perils of the post-college years and trying to discover what they really want out of life. Whit Stillman's ambitious, gimlet-eyed, end-of-an-era romance becomes even more poignant as the years go by. With Robert Sean Leonard and Stillman regulars Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols.
DIR/SCR/PROD Whit Stillman. US, 1998, color, 113 min. RATED R
Sun, Mar 25, 9:30; Wed, Mar 28, 9:15; Thu, Mar 29, 9:30--note new time!