Feb 27, 2011
When it comes to releasing the masterpieces of world cinema, the Criterion Collection valiantly gets the job done well. However, when it comes to releasing modern films by the cinephile company, the films are usually hit or miss. I am still perplexed by the fact that Criterion Collection found Michael Bay's Armageddon and The Rock worthy of a lavish DVD release. Criterion certainly made the right decision when they chose to release Lars von Trier's Antichrist, a spearheading film that is destined to be revered as one of the greatest masterpieces of the early 2000s. I, however, cannot give praise to Criterion for releasing the mediocre 1990 film Metropolitan directed by Whit Stillman, a filmmaker known for influencing fellow "quirk-loving" auteurs of banality, Wes Anderson and Noah Bambauch. All three of these filmmakers have a personal love for the slightly wealthy bourgeois; a class that tends to be less interesting than a lonely intercity laundry mat. After watching Metropolitan, a film that follows proletarian Tom Townsend as he reluctantly engages with an impotent pack of bourgeois socialites, I can say that I much rather watch a film portraying Spike Lee's side of town.
The whole tone and feeling of Metropolitan can be summed up in a scene where a young bourgeois named Charlie decries the bourgie-parodying nature of Luis Buñuel's classic The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Charlie explains that after hearing the title of Buñuel's film, he was presumptively relieved that a filmmaker had finally documented a film about the charm of the bourgeoisie. Of course, as he explains to his friends, little lily Charlie was far from charmed by Buñuel's sensual surrealism. Not only does Charlie boy prove that he has no appreciation for the art of cinema; he also gives credence to Bunuel's ridiculous cinematic representation of the bourgeoisie. After telling his clique of debutantes and beaus about the horrors of The Discreet Charms of the Bourgeoisie, they all join in a verbal assault against surrealist artists, pretentiously describing them as "social climbers." Of course, the "social climbing" protagonist of Metropolitian, Tom, first finds the "proper" etiquette of his new friends to be rather ostentatious and patently ridiculous. Unfortunately, by the end of the film, Tom has grown fond of debs and begins to shed his political leanings associated with the color red (citing Charles Fourier's as his greatest influence on his political views).
During a scene in Metropolitan featuring Tom sleeping in his bed after a wild night with the urban haute bourgeoisie (Charlie's coined phrase for his group), a volume of Oswald Spengler's magnus opus The Decline of the West can be seen sitting next to an alarm clock. Of course, I could not help but to think of Spengler's theories whilst unenthusiastically viewing Metropolitan. Spengler saw a cultural decline in all classes of Western civilization and the characters of Metropolitan are certainly systemic of it. The closest thing to an antagonist in the film is a young baron that "doesn't like taking things seriously," aside from running a train on some naive teenage patrician (which is obviously not featured in the film, that would be too risque). Long gone are the days of heroic young aristocrats like the Red Baron (Manfred von Richthofen) and the Bloody White Baron (Roman Ungern von Sternberg), for the baron of Metropolitan is about as threatening as a 7 year old black girl. I can only assume that the director of the film has given an accurate portrayal regarding the slow and monotonous times of the NYC bourgie. After all, Metropolitan director Whit Stillman is the godson of E. Digby Baltzell, the man that popularized the acronym WASP. After suffering through the film, I have come to the conclusion that Karl Marx may not have been such a bad guy after all.
Posted by Soiled Sinema at 11:54 PM
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