“Twenty-four years after the release of his first feature, Metropolitan,” begins the New Yorker‘s Richard Brody, “and two years after the release of his fourth, Damsels in Distress, Whit Stillman—the cinema’s novelist of manners, who reveals deep and enduring patterns beneath the shimmer of apparent frivolities—has written, directed, and produced the twenty-six-minute pilot of a TV-like series, The Cosmopolitans, for Amazon… He equips his characters with expository dialogue that’s so smart and sharp that it, too, seems like a sort of action—thought in action…. There’s obviously something conservative about Stillman’s work, but, as nostalgia goes, his is an immensely productive and forward-looking one. His vision of a world in which traditional modes of behavior are preserved is also one in which those modes are still active—what he imports from the past is equally latent, though unexpressed, in the present.”
The Cosmopolitans “is quintessential Stillman, a spiritual heir to, most especially, his second movie, Barcelona,” suggests Willa Paskin at Slate. “The Cosmopolitans, in its discursive first episode, introduces Jimmy (Adam Brody, exhibiting disorienting flashes of Chris Eigeman’s unmistakable diction), the lovelorn Hal (Jordan Rountree), and their Italian friend Sandro (Adriano Giannini) as they sit in an outdoor café, chattering about love, loneliness, the propensity of American men to get pushed around by women, and the antics of a friend named Fritz. When Vicky (Chloë Sevigny), who is better-established in Paris, bumps into them at the café, she greets them with an underhanded ‘You’re still here.’ Jimmy replies, all innocence, ‘We live here. We’re Parisians.’ He is still taking French-language classes. After the tonal misstep that was Damsels in Distress, The Cosmopolitans is a return to form.”
Stillman “is pretty much the cinematic poet laureate of white privilege,” writes Salon‘s Andrew O’Hehir. “There’s no question that Stillman is aware that his self-regarding, upper-crust characters are marinating in the willful blindness of race, class and economic privilege. But what he thinks about that or where he goes with it are more complicated…. A colleague of mine who also watched the opening episode of The Cosmopolitans described it as ‘hermetic,’ and that’s entirely correct. It’s all a question of where you think Stillman is going with this portrait of these prep-school, Ivy League types, cut off from the reality of their own country and trying to live out some recycled fantasy of 1920s expatriate glamor. It’s also a question of whether he makes you laugh, and makes you feel there’s something true, either literally or symbolically so, about these people and their ridiculous, privileged, isolated situation. For me that’s where the difference lies between The Cosmopolitans and the largely inept anti-American satire of recent Woody Allen movies like Midnight in Paris or Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
The Seventh Art‘s 2012 interview with Stillman
Sam Adams has been collecting more reviews at Criticwire. Recent profiles of Stillman: Marshall Heyman (Wall Street Journal), Doree Shafrir (Buzzfeed) and Louisa Thomas (Grantland). Earlier: William Van Meter‘s chat with Stillman and Sevigny for New York. Meantime, at the Dissolve, Stillman tells Noel Murray about the last great movie he saw and loved: Alfred Hitchcock’s Young & Innocent (1937).
Update, 9/4: Esther Breger talks with Stillman for the New Republic.
Update, 9/10: Hillary Weston talks with Stillman for BlackBook.
Update, 9/16: Priya Elan interviews Stillman for the Guardian.