Thursday, February 9, 2017

I Love the Night Life

Carrying on with Whit Stillman's Yuppie Trilogy, we watched The Last Days of Disco (1998). If you are smarter than me, you realize that we skipped the second movie (Barcelona) and went straight to the third. But you don't really need to watch these in order.

To recap, Stillman made a loose trilogy about over-educated upper-class but not necessarily rich kids in New York. This one focuses on the scene at a popular disco, essentially Studio 54. One guy works at the club, and sneaks his friends in. One guy works at an ad agency; he uses the first guy to get his clients in - that's basically his job description: can get people into Studio 54. Another one works for the DA, and really believes in disco, he just doesn't have time to go that much.

And then there are the women: two girls who prepped together. Kate Beckinsale is a reader at a publishing office, and wants to help Chloe Sevigny so that everyone doesn't hate her like they did at Hampshire. But Chloe has to understand that people hate it when you are critical.

Now, I visited Hampshire College at lot in the 70s. It's a hippy school near Amherst, Smith, and Mt. Holyoke. We called it the "cocaine, suede and waterbeds" school. So it's understandable that she would be critical. But when Beckinsale tells her that, she just gets defensive and, well, more critical. So even when nice guys buy her drinks, she has to criticize. She doesn't want a vodka tonic, she wants a ... And in the pause, you see she doesn't know what she wants. She just doesn't want to be ordinary or predictable.

She is really the focus of the movie - all the guys eventually fall for her. But it's more than a character study (although it does that really well) or a story about life in New York: the railroad apartments, the subways, the corner bar when you can't get into the disco. It's also a comedy.

There's the cult of disco, with so many characters rhapsodizing over the concept of a club where you can meet people and dance. Talking about the philosophy of disco, and how it can never die if it lives on in the hearts of young men and women. Then there's the demonization of advertising people. It doesn't matter if you are black or white, straight or gay, rich or poor, but if you are in advertising, you are scum.

It is a bit slow moving, meandering, but it isn't plotless - it's just that the plot doesn't matter a whole lot. And it seems kind of slice-of-life, but it's really almost absurdist comedy. And Sevigny is really quite gorgeous, in a mopey, self-conscious, low-self-esteem kind of way.

And the music is great - now that disco is dead, I don't mind admitting that. But let me tell you, none of these kids can dance worth a damn.

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