Thursday, February 16, 2006

Whither whit?

Or should that be wit? Well, for a brief shining moment in 1990 they were essentially synonynous with the release of Whit Stillman's "Metropolitan".

Sandwiched between "Woody Allen's" best work and the frothy fun of "Sex and the City", Stillman's best movie, released this week on DVD similarly offers a snapshot of the Big Apple from a specific time and place.

It centers around a set of young preppies living and partying it up on the Upper East Side in the late '80s. While that may not sound like the most appealing of premises, Stillman keeps the dialogue sharp and always tongue-in-cheek, mixing equal parts Jane Austen and F. Scott Fitzgerald for a portrait of a subculture on the decline.

Sadly, Stillman would never again reach the heights he did with this small gem. His second effort, 1994's "Barcelona," was most notable only for introducing the world to "Mira Sorvina", and his third and last, 1990's "The Last Days of Disco," was just plain bad. What was meant as a trilogy is also a sad, slow downfall.

But Woody, before he set his sights on London with the spectacular "Match Point" and now has completed the upcoming "Scoop", and Whit at their best painted vivid pictures of New York and were masters at the dying art of dialogue.

You can still find witty banter in the movies of "Kevin Smith" or Stephen Frears, but it's now largely relegated to TV. I find my weekly dose on the "Gilmore Girls" and anything by "Joss Whedon", and now I'll get a welcome blast from the past in the mail from Netflix this week with "Metropolitan."

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