First world problem: grossly famous people are constantly coming to campus and causing a ruckus, and this never benefits me. I'm not interested in them, I can't get into their events, and I am saddled with all the inconveniences of their presence. Last week, for example, I granted a student a paper extension due to "Lady Gaga-related stress." Really.
So I was extremely pleased when Whit Stillman, a person of moderate fame and little spectacle, came to campus to screen his new movie, Damsels in Distress, last weekend. This also featured a retrospective of all his other films, which I love (although I unfortunately had to miss Metropolitan due to student-caused gastrointestinal illness), after which he answers audience questions in a way that both slighted the pretentious film people who put on his event and failed to explain his films. I think this is basically a good strategy, since one doesn't want to become some modern version of Plato's Ion, like David Mamet or David Simon, who make a good work of art and then, when asked to explain it, bloviate sententiously about their half-formed political ideas. Listening to these speeches only clarifies why these people are making their living from activities not connected to political journalism. Stillman wisely sidestepped provocations to expound on his politics, and instead misdirected us with two very important points, both of which I was wholly in sympathy with: first, 1960s Motown, soul, and R&B is "immortal and classic," and second, "Amazing Grace" is a very beautiful hymn. I had asked about the latter, why it and "Dear Lord and Father of Mankind" were included in The Last Days of Disco, and he evaded me, and then as we were leaving the theater, stopped me and said that this was a good question, but he wasn't about to preach a sermon, confirming my suspicion that the film was about a Christian kind of redemption. I then immediately lamented not seizing the moment to talk to him further and ask him to have a drink with me and my husband.
Damsels in Distress is a pretty great movie, by the way. My prediction: If it gets attention from the UHB standbys like Slate and the Atlantic, it will generate the same kind of coverage as Juno, inspiring conservative pleasure and liberal attempts to show that this thing that they just palpably enjoyed was not actually that conservative. Second prediction: I may, upon further consideration, be inspired by it to take up the wearing of perfume and brooches, the latter of which I've actually been contemplating for some time, since I started reading Emily Hale's blog.