The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

June 22, 2018

Intercollegiate Review Archive

Volume 35, Number 2
Spring 2000


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Symposium: Film, Comedy, and Christian Humanism: A First Look at Whit Stillman



Stillman stands for the right of the past not to be colonized by the present, not to be politicized by what in historical terms is our very parochial tendency to see all things in terms of power distribution. Even when his characters are political, like Tom in Metropolitan, their views are likely to be expressed in the most quaint and old- fashioned ways. Tom is a follower of Charles Fourier (1772-1837), the French utopian socialist and author of Le Nouveau monde industriel who was the inspiration for Brook Farm. When Charlie points out that Brook Farm ceased to exist and therefore Fourierism was a failure, Tom quietly replies: “Everyone ceases to exist; that doesn’t mean everyone’s a failure.” Later it is Tom himself who has to be put right by Audrey when he tells her that “nearly everything that Jane Austen wrote looks ridiculous from today’s perspective.” “Has it ever occurred to you,” she replies with her own version of Stillmanian quixotism, “that today from Jane Austen’s perspective would look even worse?”
—James Bowman

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