Whichever way you look at it, 14 years is a long time in the film business - and that is how long it’s been since writer-director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, Barcelona, The Last Days Of Disco) last graced us with a slice of dry-humoured, acutely-satirical comedy.
His new film, the East Coast college flick Damsels In Distress, is both a return to and a break from form. The budget is still low, and the characters still wrestle with toe-curling lapses in self-awareness, but this time around there’s a new generation of pitch-perfect performers (Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody) giving voice to Stillman’s dialogue.
The night before I was due to chat with the director, I caught one of his three London Q&A appearances, where he answered questions covering the racial make-up of his cast, his obsession with dance crazes, and his fondness for the ‘stupid, innocent comedy’ of Will Ferrell. With such a packed promotional schedule, I worried that all possible questions had already been asked. What could we possibly talk about?
Luckily, as he has proved in his films, Stillman is the master of looking at similar situations with different, fresh perspectives. When I arrived at the PR company’s Soho offices, the director broke ranks, wandered out into the foyer, and suggested we conduct our conversation over coffee. And, amongst the Berwick Street bustle, Stillman proved to be a chatty fellow, full of anecdotes about his unrealised projects, advice about being an economical filmmaker and opinions on the current state of the film industry.
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