Saturday, 27 July 2013
Stillman's Barcelona - Preppy Interlopers
Who ever tires of watching the first three dialogue-driven films of American writer-director Whit Stilllman? If you do, then we must accept this irreconcilable difference with good grace. I'm sure we'll find other things in common.
We've covered his delightful first film Metropolitan and now let's remind ourselves of his Latin-tinged comedy of cultures, Barcelona.
Christopher Eigeman and Taylor Nichols, who both acted in Metropolitan, return to play similar but different characters. This time they are American brothers Ted and Fred Boynton. And once more it is a delight to see them deliver Stillman's droll and subtly mischief-making lines, loaded with social observation. Whitman considered the setting of Barcelona as a way of "studying Americans by finding them in isolation."
Mild-mannered Ted (Taylor) is working for a U.S. company in their Barcelona office. Fred is a spiky naval officer and comes to Barcelona as an attaché in preparation for the arrival of a U.S. Navy fleet. Ted acquiesces to the cultural and political rhythms of his host city, as much as an outsider can, but his brother Fred is a little more disruptive, leading a one-man crusade against - and being a target for - the constant anti-American hum. At one point he tries to change graffito on a wall from 'Yankee pigs go home' to 'Yankee deers go home' with a felt-tip pen.
Despite the friction, the brothers make attempts to engage with the city as much as their characters will allow, and against all odds they actually find romance.
I was reminded of this film when I took out a Madras jacket for a recent picnic. (I think I'm getting picnicker's knee.) Eigeman's character Fred wears one at the famous 'ants at the picnic' scene in the film (top).
The wardrobes of the American characters in the film are fittingly preppy. The preppy credentials are reinforced by acknowledgements for Hickey-Freeman and our not-yet-friends Alden, the New England shoemakers, at the end of the film.