Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

A Classic Indie Returns: Whit Stillman on "Metropolitan"

By Eugene Hernandez | Indiewire August 14, 2008 at 3:00AM

Alongside "Slacker," "Roger & Me," "Poison," "Sex Lies and Videotape," and "Paris Is Burning," nearly twenty years ago Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan" marked a distinctive moment in American independent filmmmaking. Yet two decades later, the film is not as widely available as other classic U.S. indies. All that changed when the film debuted last night, for free, on Hulu. Asked how he feels about having the film re-surface online, Stillman deadpanned recently via email, "Great. Not having made a film in so long, I'm keen to have the existent ones available all ways possible."
0

Alongside "Slacker," "Roger & Me," "Poison," "Sex Lies and Videotape," and "Paris Is Burning," nearly twenty years ago Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan" marked a distinctive moment in American independent filmmmaking. Yet two decades later, the film is not as widely available as other classic U.S. indies. All that changed when the film debuted last night, for free, on Hulu. Asked how he feels about having the film re-surface online, Stillman deadpanned recently via email, "Great. Not having made a film in so long, I'm keen to have the existent ones available all ways possible."

Set during the end of Manhattan's iconic Upper East Side debutante world, "Metropolitan" follows outcast Ivy League student from the wrong side of the park, Tom Townsend (Edward Clements), who gets drawn into the exclusive and upper-crust preppy circle of formal winter balls. The film introduced Chris Eigeman as the outspoken and critical Nick Smith, also featuring Carolyn Farina, Dylan Hundley, Taylor Nichols, and Allison Parisi. Its witty depiction of Manhattan life would certainly seem to have influenced later New York City-based films by Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson. It was the first film in Stillman's thematic trilogy that later included "Barcelona" (1994) and "The Last Days of Disco" (1998).

After studying at Harvard and working in publishing, Stillman was in his late 30s when he made his mark on the indie scene, launching the $300,000 film at IFP's Independent Feature Film Market in 1989 and then narrowly securing a slot at the Sundance Film Festival before screening at New Directors, New Films later that Spring. He went on to earn an Oscar nomination for best screenplay and, as John Pierson notes in his essential Spike, Mike, Slackers, and Dykes, Fine Line Features was formed the follwing year in the wake of the film's success at New Line Cinema.

"I remember getting turned down by Sundance originally," Stillman recalled in an interview with indieWIRE 10 years ago, "I remember all the people kind of not liking the film or not thinking it was commercial in the first screenings. People see anything that's kind of strange in what it's doing and it's very natural to kind of doubt its ability to survive in the marketplace."

A scene from Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan." Photo provided by Cinetic Rights Management

So, apparently not much has changed in twenty years. It took the tirelessness of sales rep and the passion of a few well-placed film critics to get the film noticed. Asked this week what he thinks about the ways that the business of independent film has changed since he made "Metropolitan," Stillman said, "Well, things were bad then, too."

"As a completed film, 'Metropolitan' was rejected everywhere, even by Sundance," Stillman recalled this week, "Thanks to [Sundance programmer] Tony Safford, the film finally got into the festival after which, despite a great reception, it still remained bereft of distribution. If it hadn't been for Ira Deutchman as our producer's rep, Lindsay Law (who bought the film for American Playhouse, allowing us to pay our lab bill), Sara Risher and Bob Shaye of New Line, and supporters in the press such as Roger Ebert and Vincent Canby -- all of them -- the film never would have come out."

While re-licensing the film for television, watch for it on Sundance Channel, Stillman and his reps at Cinetic Rights Management decided to pursue an online release of the film. Readily available on VHS back in the day, "Metropolitan" is more rare on DVD here in the United States, save for a single "Criterion" edition. Despite the lack of distribution, younger folks have been able to catch it on television or via Netflix.

"Thanks to the Criterion edition and some supporters at the cable channels, the film seems to have gotten a new audience," Still noted, "As it was old-fashioned and passe when made -- intentionally -- the film doesn't seem to have lost much with the passage of time."

Since making his three features, Stillman has lived in Paris and other European cities, but is spending time in New York now. Asked how he reconciles his own inspirations for the film with the way the city is today, he commented -- sounding like one of the characters from his films -- "I am far more ambivalent about the role of wealth in the city -- no longer having any."

At lunch in Manhattan yesterday, Stillman continued to press the flesh trying to get a few projects off the ground. Among them is "Dancing Mood," a film he calls "an early '60s Jamaican story...which has the advantage of characters and themes far more sympathetic sociologically than the poisonous preppies (I write as one) of the earlier triptych. Whoever backs it is going to be very rich!"

"Now independent film is again at the low ebb of a cycle, which is probably a very good time to put new ventures in the works," Stillman told indieWIRE this week, "It's painful to hear the formulas enunciated -- casting, budget and marketing mantras -- by which judgment, intelligent effort and showmanship are to be replaced."

"Metropolitan" is available for the next few weeks on Hulu.com






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More