On Tuesday, September 13, 2011 I attended the gala North American Premiere of Damsels in Distress
at the Toronto International Film Festival. The sold-out screening was held in the historic 1500-seat Elgin Theatre. The film was a selection in the Special Presentations section.
meets Smiley Face
in this offbeat comedy from writer/director Whit Stillman (Metropolitan, The Last Days of Disco, Barcelona
). No "normal" young woman would be noticed outside of the homogeneous mass of students at the newly-coeducated college where this story takes place. But several misfit girls -- the titular damsels in distress -- each has qualities that, together, produce a surreal synergy to which men are drawn, often for no apparent reason other than that the women seem to be able to conjure up spells when in each other's presence.
The plot is incredulous but there's no denying the film's dreamy landscape. Cinematographer Doug Emmett's use of diffusion filters makes everything appear as if shot through gauze. The use of pastel colors with non-era-specific costume and set design enhances the film's timeless look, giving each character an aura that matches their personalities. It was one of the most effective uses of light and tone that I've seen in a long time.
The film amused much of the audience but also left some baffled. It's just quirky enough to put it out of reach of many filmgoers. During the Q&A, one of the audience members remarked to the director, "Your film is a bit removed from reality." Stillman quickly replied, "A bit??? I hope it's far more removed from reality than that." I don't do nor recommend the use of mind-altering substances but this film may best be appreciated by those who do.
Writer/director Whit Stillman introduced the cast prior to the film and then was joined onstage after the screening for a Q&A by stars Greta Gerwig, Carrie MacLemore, Analeigh Tipton, and Adam Brody.
Here are some pictures I shot during the intro & Q&A:
GALLERY (32 photos)