Fascinating virtues

I, too, am quite a fan of Whit Stillman’s films (despite the fact that they somehow make me simultaneoulsy think, “Dude, I’m such a WASP,” and “Dude, I’m so not a WASP”). To my mind the best of the trio is The Last Days of Disco, though who wouldn’t also love a movie (Barcelona) whose IMDB reviews include one called—accurately, no less—”The Bible Dancer and the American Deer.”

Because Stillman praises convention and doesn’t shun virtue, there are more options open to him.  It turns out looking at convention and virtue only through a perspective that disparages them can seriously limit your stock of references.  Stillman’s characters can move from examining Jane Austen or War and Peace to analyzing The Graduate from the perspective of the make-out king.  Stillman doesn’t feel the need for hip references; he simply explores his interests, and they are fascinating.

If praising virtue leads to creativity, this is good news for contemporary artists because it opens up more options for them.  Stillman is proof that virtue doesn’t have to lead to canned narratives.  Virtue in a world where it is largely misunderstood is fuel for drama, irony and a whole lot of cinematic fun.


from “Virtuous Fun in the Films of Whit Stillman,” by Rebecca Tirrell Talbot, The Curator, 23 January 2009

Originally published at culture-making.com.

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