Whit Stillman

No contemporary filmmaker quite captures social comedy amongst the elite like Whit Stillman. Across five films, he has presented sophisticated satires that relish the behaviour of high society whilst simultaneously ridiculing it. He may have only produced one Jane Austen adaptation, but no other contemporary filmmaker embodies her spirit, no matter the setting. 'Metropolitan' (1990) came first. It was bundled up with the wave of American Indies, but was far too rarefied to fit in with any ease. It's set in the world of Manhattan debutante balls and if it felt out of time when it first appeared, the film now appears timeless. The same goes for the equally enigmatic 'Barcelona' (1994). Both films starred Chris Eigman, who was to Stillman what Martin Donovan was to Hal Hartley – an on-screen alter ego of sorts. Eigman took a lesser role in 'The Last Days of Disco' (1998), which is dominated by the perfect pairing of Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale. The pair were reunited in the recent 'Love & Friendship', based on Austen's 'Lady Susan'. Beckinsale once again played the more verbally dextrous character, the author's waspish heroine. In between came 'Damsels in Distress' (2011) starring Greta Gerwig, who couldn't have been a more suitable Stillman actor if she had been cloned for the role.

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