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Apocalypse archives: Whit Stillman

The Damsels in Distress director picks five films he’d save in an impending apocalypse

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Apocalypse archives: Whit Stillman

That Sinking Feeling

Bill Forsyth, 1980
‘I wanted to include something Scottish. Aside from how enjoyable Bill Forsyth’s film about kids in rainy Glasgow is, I want to include it for its economy of means. To see how much was done with so little was very inspiring. It was a big influence on me when I started to make films. I wish Bill Forsyth were still making films.’

The Gay Divorcee

Mark Sandrich, 1934
‘This is the RKO Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film. I love things that are done at the beginning of a trend. I like it better when films are rough and odd, before the wrinkles have been smoothed out. I think Top Hat is more famous, but it’s been to the dry cleaners. Gay Divorce has strangeness and idiosyncrasy of humour. And one of the greatest long dance sequences, which is the Continental. And it has the song ‘Night and Day’.’

The Awful Truth

Leo McCarey, 1937
‘It’s the finest form of a certain kind of comedy, that in which a married couple split up but won’t let another go. It also seemed to create the Cary Grant identity. Essentially, Cary Grant wasn’t Cary Grant until that film and then he was Cary Grant after that film. It’s also the film that converted my eldest daughter to liking black and white films.’

The Shop Around the Corner

Ernst Lubitsch, 1940
‘This is a film gem. And it’s a film with enormous humanity. And it has James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as a couple who fall for each other without knowing or admitting it. Margaret Sullavan is one of my favourite actresses. She’s inexpressibly lovely and romantic. I adore her.’

The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek

Preston Sturges, 1944
‘I have to include a Preston Sturges film. The Lady Eve might be a better film, formally, but sometimes your affection is for flawed films. This is fine cuisine based on lunchmeat ingredients. A lot of the elements of the film are not interesting in themselves, but Sturges concocts them into the most delicious soufflé. It would definitely help your spirits after the apocalypse.’

Whit Stillman’s Damsels in Distress is on selected release from Fri 27 April.

THAT SINKING FEELING. Watch the whole movie here

Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers - The Continental, The Gay Divorcee, 1934

The Awful Truth - Of Course I Would

The Shop Around The Corner Trailer

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (1944) trailer

Damsels in Distress

  • 3 stars
  • 2012
  • US
  • 99 min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Whit Stillman
  • Written by: Whit Stillman
  • Cast: Greta Gerwig, Adam Brody, Analeigh Tipton
  • UK release: 27 April 2012

The titular damsels are a group of female undergrads led by the obsessive-compulsive Violet (Gerwig, good) who set about rescuing their fellow students from perceived ills. It's good to have director Stillman back after 14 years, even if the pointed wit has been replaced by studied silliness.

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