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Whit Stillman Revisits ‘Metropolitan’ 20 Years Later

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A still from Whit Stillman’s iconic independent film ‘Metropolitan,’ which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 1990.

Mike Jones

“Do you really think I’m flat-chested?”

“You look really good, and that’s all that’s important. You don’t want to overdo it.”

The last lines of Metropolitan, Whit Stillman’s seminal tale of Upper East Side class and love returned to the Egyptian Theatre in Park City yesterday after 20 years. And as Stillman sat in the back, he felt the screening wasn’t going well.

“I thought the audience wasn’t into it,” said the director, reflecting his own anxieties rather than those of the applauding crowd. “Any film you see again is like watching one mistake after another. Our style was defined by defects.”

Shot on a $97,000 shoestring budget with no industry help, Stillman remembered the ordeal of the Manhattan/Long Island shoot fondly, as did two actors joining him on stage, Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols. “We’d steal a lot of stuff,” said Eigeman.

Stillman’s dialogue in the film—a mix of confidence and deception—is its distinctive mark and one the actors found challenging at times. Eigeman, who played the quick-witted Nick Smith, remembered a difficult scene in a New York park. Stillman’s direction? “Say it like it’s exquisite bullshit.”

“As if to say ‘I’m really telling the truth but not really. I believe in what I’m saying, but I know it’s a lie,'” said Eigeman. “It’s gotten me through most of my career.”


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