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How Whit Stillman’s “Terrible Period” Made Him A Better Filmmaker

The Metropolitan writer-director talks to Co.Create about how struggling to get films made eventually led him to Jane Austen.

With the films Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco, Whit Stillman immortalized the 1% percent milieu of coming-of-age WASPs in the era of Izod’s and Drakkar Noir. In the process, the writer-director became a required cultural icon for aspiring sophisticates—or, U.H.B.s (urban haute bourgeoisie), as Whitman classified his subjects. His autobiographical films were quotable, quippy satires of a class that is typically treated with cartoonish condescension. Stillman chose to bestow on them traces of dignity, slyly defending their nostalgia for a simpler time when old money and a Seven Sisters degree was the equivalent of dropping out of Harvard to found a startup.

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