Tag Archives: comedy

Metropolitan

3 Apr

I had never heard of Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan until a couple of years ago when I came across it by chance. Better known for his film “The last days of disco” with Kate Beckinsale and Chloe Sevigny, this earlier feaure is a forgotten gem which deserves to be dusted off. On the film cover, the cation underneath the title reads “Doomed. Bourgeois. In Love” . The story begins when West sider Tom Townsend unwittingly gets mixed up with a group of priviledged East siders, the Sally Fowler Rat Pack or SFRP, in full swing of the debutant season. Meeting every night to discuss politics, philosophy and literature, the film could be considered a social satire in the way it gently makes fun of the characters and their opinions. One striking thing about it though is that in spite of the audience’s natural antipathy towards this preppy set, we become charmed by them and gripped by every twist in the story. These are young people of the cusp of a dying generation who know that great changes lie around the corner. You could classify it as just another East Coast talkfest but it never becomes heavy or boring, in spite of the serious topics. It’s amazing how with such a low budget and such young, unknown actors, with many of them in their first major role, Stillman could craft such a beautiful film full of terrific one liners and superby developed characters. It’s a film that really stays with you long after the credits roll and one which seems to improve with each viewing.  My particular favourite part is when the group is walking through the streets of New York in the middle of winter and they ask Tom if he isn’t cold with only a trenchcoat on to which he replies that it’s actually very warm because it has a lining.  Classic.

Advertisements

Sideways

11 Mar

Watching this film always makes me feel that it’s Sunday and the weather is good. I have seen it at least 10 times but find it difficult to put my finger on exactly why I love it so much. The story is basically that of two men setting off for the California wine country to enjoy a last week of freedom before one of them gets married. From the way they talk and interract, it’s clear they have been friends for many years but also that they are pulling in opposite directions. Needless to say, things get complicated and chaos ensues. With another director and cast, the result could have been totally different, becoming simply a buddy movie, sentimental or just a typical rom com. What makes it really work is that the characters are real flawed flesh and blood, played by actors whose faces are not frozen and who are not big stars. The leading men are middle aged with not much to show for their efforts; a failed actor and an aspiring writer with a depression problem.  The story treads the fine line between comedy and tragedy effortlessly, showing that both darkness and light are part of who we are. It’s a film for the senses; the gorgeous light that falls across the hills, the saturated colours that remind me of films from the 70s, the grapes that the characters see and touch, the wonderful jazz soundtrack and most of all the fine food and wine. It makes me long to go on my own road trip to sample the rich flavours of the region, despite the fact that I don’t have a driver’s licence.

My favourite scene is probably where Paul Giamatti and Virginia Madsen are sat out on the patio late at night and they talk about why they love wine. Madsen’s face is bathed in a golden light as she describes how she thinks about what the weather was like the year the grapes were being picked, the people that were there, how most of them must be dead if it’s an old wine and that wine is alive, changing in taste from day to day and then beginning to slowly decline. It’s a film about wanting to move on but being afraid to move forward  and like the pinot that Giamatti’s character loves so much, it lingers and improves over time with repeated viewings.