The Last Days Of Disco
Whit Stillman's third film, "The Last Days of Disco," represents a swing in his work I can't help but dislike. While his earlier films saw him satirizing upper-class youths with an understanding wink, this one sees him discredit them with an unfriendly nudge. Starring Kate Beckinsale and the luminous Chloe Sevigne, Stillman observes as his ensemble navigates their way through sex, their careers, and their personal lives in the backdrop of a Studio 54 stand-in. What's unfortunate is that in all the flashing lights and comedic awkwardness, he forgets to capture any real human emotion. "Metropolitan" this is not.
The problem with the film is that Stillman has no real interest in the emotions of his characters; he simply has them shifting through a series of soap-opera level plots (hospital stays, cheating boyfriends, power c'oups in a disco studio, whole nine yards) for the sake of the surface laughs. Oftentimes he humiliates them, and some of it is so rough as to make it starkly unfunny. Gone is the subtextual sadness behind "Metropolitan", or the curious optimism that seeped into his second film "Barcelona." In their stead is nothing but elitist snark.
But Criterion has put together a package so comprehensive that it worked to swing my opinion on this misfire of a film. Audio commentary and deleted scenes help us to further understand the tone Stillman was trying to strike, and the inclusion of Stillman reading passages from his own novelization of the film is nothing less than inspired. It should go without saying that the visual presentation is flawless - and wow, that opening credit sequence is still a knockout. If only the rest of the film could live up to its promise.
"The Last Days of Disco"