I just found out that Metropolitan, one of my favorite movies from the early 1990s, just got release on Hulu, of all places. The movie was an oddly daring debut from director Whit Stillman, and garnered a well-deserved Best Original Screenplay Oscar nomination for a talky piece about some rich kids maneuvering through the upper echelon of Manhattan.
I saw this when I was a freshman or sophomore in college, just before I started really appreciating "films" and yet I found this movie utterly refreshing, having giggled incessantly throughout. I thought that perhaps it was because I was at Dartmouth, where many of these people who were really so full of themselves seemingly ended up (or so it seemed, work-study kid that I was, surrounded by what seemed to be very privileged people). On my exchange term at UC-San Diego, however, I convinced someone on my hall -- a very loopy, arty guy that I respected -- to come to a campus screening with me, and he laughed throughout the whole movie and thanked me profusely when it was over.
There's a great moment which, I'm sad to say, isn't spoken by my favorite character, the insouciant Nick (played with gleeful abandon by Chris Eigeman), but rather in an exchange between Audrey (Carolyn Farina) and Tom (Edward Clements). (I wasn't able to snip out a clip from Hulu, so look for it around the 27-minute mark.) Not so surprisingly, Audrey loves Jane Austen and is unnerved by Tom's vehemence against her work -- when all of a sudden he admits the he's never read Austen at all. "Oh no," he says, "I don't read novels. I prefer good literary criticism. That way you get both the novelists' ideas as well as the critics' thinking."
Every so often, I wonder about whether literature (and film) professors in general suffer from this conundrum. And then they wonder when people like Audrey, who rightly live in the pleasure that the book provides, think that we're nuts for looking too closely at what we read.