- Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (23.976Hz)
- Audio Codec: English LPCM 1.0 (48kHz/24-bit)
- Subtitles: English SDH
- Subtitles Color: White
- Region: A (Region-Locked)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Run Time: 99 Mins.
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Criterion Collection
- Blu-ray Release Date: July 24, 2012
- List Price: $39.95
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Whit Stillman made his auspicious directing debut with Metropolitan, an obvious homage to the Woody Allen Manhattan-based society dramas. This urban comedy of errors, shades of Jane Austen, takes dead aim at the aristocratic debutante-party-going New York youth. The storyline focuses on a down-at-the-heels Ivy League undergraduate, Thomas Townsend (Edward Clements), who gets taken under the wing of his upper crust classmate, Nick Smith (Chris Eigeman). During the late 80’s holiday party season, viewers are treated to a series of post-party get-togethers in which the characters express their views or lack thereof on life, relationships, literature, philosophy, and, well, so on and so on. Most of the cast were relative unknowns, highlighted by Carolyn Farina who delivers a spot-on realization of shyly romantic deb Audrey Roget. Having gone to college with people similar to those portrayed in Metropolitan, I was continually amazed by how true to type their characters appear. Stillman’s minimalist staging, mostly New York apartments and hotels like the St. Regis and Plaza, allows us to focus even more closely on the principals. Throughout its background lounge music, and crisp repartee, we are permitted a very private view of the these society elitists the way they were.
(For a different take, read our Metropolitan [Criterion Collection] Blu-ray review by Brandon DuHamel)
There is certain period authenticity conveyed by the steady grain of this film, consistent with the budget cinematography that got it across the finish line for only $225,000. The essence of place, Manhattan, is neatly conveyed by the outdoor shots of Mid-Town, Rockefeller Center, the Plaza Hotel, and the interior of St. Patrick’s Church. But as most of the shots are of apartment interiors, the success of the cinematography comes from its unerring sense of intimacy conveyed by the many close ups and small group shots.
The PCM 1.0 mono soundtrack is very clear, and you get all of the dialogue, good, bad and indifferent. This is to the viewer’s advantage since this is a very dialogue-driven film. The background music, mostly big band lounge variety, is a good representation of what the characters would have heard during the debutante season of the 1970s. There is a definite boxiness to the overall sound picture but it does not detract from the proceedings.
The extras provided are relatively few for The Criterion Collection:
- Audio commentary by director Stillman, editor Christopher Tellefsen, and actors Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols
- Outtakes and alternate casting with commentary by Stillman
- An accompanying booklet with an essay on the film by critic Luc Sante
The Definitive Word
Metropolitan can be best characterized by the encounter between Charlie Black (Taylor Nichols), Tom and an older Princeton graduate (Roger Kirby) at a Manhattan bar. The older grad sums up life in rather unpromising terms: “You go to a party and meet people you like and think these people are going to be my friends for the rest of my life and then you never see them again. Where do they go?” Throughout the one and half-hours’ playing time, you begin to see the ultimate transience of the so-called glamour of debutante-college life. Even the characters make frequent references to the likelihood that these social rites of passages disappear in the near future. Writer/director Stillman achieves a cinema verite account of a 1980’s society that most people never ever get to know: the preppies, the inheritors of family fortunes, their inner circle, and their entourages. Woody Allen lovers rejoice, this is the children of his Manhattan cast. If that doesn’t work for you, then think of an upper crust and highly polished version of Barry Levinson’s Diner. The Criterion Collection rarely takes a misstep in its selection of reissues and this holds true of Metropolitan and its rare inside look at the private lives of the privileged few.
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