Criterion Corner: The Last Days of Disco(1998)

The Criterion Collection for years have been releasing the best versions of movies on DVD and Blue Ray.  They are hands down the ultimate praise a film can receive,and while many claim  the Oscar to be  the ultimate recognition.  Having the work and praise that goes into a Criterion edition.  Shows that it was put together by film lovers for film lovers.  This section is going to be dedicated to some of the great movies in this growing collection.

Last days criterionThe Last Days of Disco

Cast:  Kate Beckinsale, Chole Sevingy,Robert Shawn Leonard

Writer and Director: Whit Stillman.

There are only a handful of directors who are good at using pop music to help compliment their visuals. Off the top of my head those ones include Martin Scorsese(“Casino“) Wes Anderson(“Rushmore“), Quentin Tarantino(“Pulp Fiction“), Paul Thomas Anderson(“Boogie Nights“), Sofia Coppola(“Marie Antoinette“) and now Whit Stillman with “The Last Days of Disco“.  The way these directors use a particular piece of music for a scene will forever change how I feel about that song.  When I hear “You never can tell” by Chuck Barry.  I automatically think of  the twist contest with Mia and Vincent at Jack Rabbit Slims.  I can’t hear “Brass in Pocket” by The Pretenders and not picture Scarlet Johansson singing that tune.  Same thing goes for when I hear “More More More” by The Andrea True Connection.  I just see the moment  in this film when Alice(Chloe Sevingy) is trying to seduce Tom(Robert Shawn Leonard) in her bedroom(albeit in a somewhat clumsy and awkward attempt). There are a lot of other songs that I would normally dislike, but they just work so well within the context of the story. That when I hear them I can only picture that moment.

The movie opens with a cool credit sequence done to the tune of “Doctor’s Order” by Carol Douglas that puts you right into the world of these highly privileged socialites in New York City.  This is the same world that inhabits both “Metropolitan” and “Barcelona“, and I believe a few characters from each of those flicks makes an appearance in this one.   We are then introduced to Alice and Charlotte(Kate Beckinsale) as they make their way to a trendy dance club.  I don’t remember the actual name of the place, but I don’t think it makes that much of a difference. Both girls seem to be very much alike with the way they dress and the people they hang out with, but they each have entirely different personalities.  Alice is very quiet and somewhat shy.  She may like a guy but doesn’t feel  quite confident to approach him. Charlotte on the other hand has a lot of confidence and is brutally honest with people.  Which makes her a bit conceited when she tries to give some helpful advice to Alice.  We are then introduced to the other characters in this play including.  Des(Chris Eigerman); a worker at the disco who pretends to be gay when he looses interest with a woman. Jimmy (Mackenzie Astin); an ad executive who never has the right outfit to get into the club. There is also Josh (Matt Keslar)who is also quiet (just like Alice) and Holly(Tara Subkoff). Who for some reason annoys Alice and Charlotte by dating their coworker Dan(Matt Ross).  As the story progresses relationships between these characters will change and while mild drama may happen with these scenarios. That is not why I keep coming back to watch this flick.

936full-the-last-days-of-disco-photo“I find Scrooge McDuck to be very sexy” said by Alice is one of my favorite lines in this flick.

To be completely honest with you dear readers. The only person I found to be likable in this whole story was Holly.  Mainly  because she seemed to be the only person not trying score with someone from inside their social circle   Although to be fair Alice does break a bit from Charlotte’s social advice and makes her own choices about dating towards the end.  The movie does have some very funny moments including a great conversation about Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” that is near perfection as well as many other great witty lines. But it is not my favorite thing.   No folks, what I like best about this movie is that for me it represented that time in one’s life between college and the real world. That time in your life when you felt the whole world was wide opened. Before the whole onslaught of responsibility came crashing in on you “The Last Days of Disco” isn’t so much about the end of a genre of music.  But the end of that particular time in our lives. I can remember going out to a little karaoke bar and dance club when I was younger and having many fun nights with friends.  As you get older those long nights seem to end earlier and earlier because you have other more important things going on.  You have kids to feed, a house mortgage to pay,a wife to make happy.  Alice,Charlotte and everyone else in this feature are slowly starting to make that realization themselves. Where this movie takes place or the music it plays has very little to do with that message.   The setting of this could have been set a rock concert or a country music bar and it still would have evoked those same feelings in me.

cri_1271761Special Features.

  • New, restored high-definition digital transfer, supervised by director Whit Stillman, with 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack on the Blu-ray edition
  • Audio commentary by Stillman and actors Chris Eigeman and Chloë Sevigny
  • Four deleted scenes, with commentary by Stillman, Eigeman, and Sevigny
  • Audio recording of Stillman reading a chapter from his book The Last Days of Disco, with Cocktails at Petrossian Afterwards
  • Behind-the-scenes featurette
  • Stills gallery, with captions by Stillman
  • Trailer
  • PLUS: A new essay by novelist David SchicklerCover illustration by Pierre Le Tan, based on his theatrical poster

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About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcasts The Film Pasture, ScreenTrax, and soon Cinema Recall. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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8 Responses to Criterion Corner: The Last Days of Disco(1998)

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Nice review Vern. As usual, Stillman adds plenty of style and a dignified taste to these characters and everything they, but once again, they didn’t feel like real or natural human-beings. Most of them just felt stilted, which is mostly because the acting and the script seemed like they were on two different ends of the spectrum, although everybody here did try their hardest.

    • The Vern says:

      I somewhat agree about the acting feeling stilted. I just thought that was part of the character that was written. I could see these same people inside the universe of American Psycho. Thanks for the comment

  2. Nice. I am unfamiliar with Stillman’s work, but I love Chloe Sevigny and your review was interesting, so I might just give this a go!

    • The Vern says:

      After I watched Kids back in 96 I saw that this was her next film and rented it right away. She’s an actress whom I need to write a post about soon. Thanks for the nice words

  3. ninvoid99 says:

    I really love this film as I hope Barcelona and Damsels in Distress join the Criterion Collection very soon as I discovered Whit Stillman this year and just love his work.

  4. table9mutant says:

    I should check this one out someday – think the hubby quite liked this one. 🙂

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