#187: The Last Days of Disco (1998)

Saturday Night’s Alright for Posing.

Following on from 1990’s critical hit debut Metropolitan and it’s sunnier follow up Barcelona, chin-wagger Whit Stillman’s third feature The Last Days of Disco focuses on another gaggle of shallow, up-state pseudo-intellectuals grappling with love, life, meaning and clutching on to a funky bygone era.

Usually presenting buffoonish boys, Stillman finally turns to the greater sex for protagonists. Alice and Charlotte (played by the charmingly gawky Chloe Sevigny and young chic thing Kate Beckinsale) are aspiring New York book editors by day, but devoted boogie-downers by night. Dolled up in their finest clobber, the pair head to an unnamed, Studio-54 like club, where they argue with the testy door staff, socialise with Manhattan’s junior execs, and awkwardly side-step the night away on the dance floor. All that, plus they talk. Talk, and talk and, when they’re finished talking, they mop it all up with just a little bit talk. The result of two hours’ company with these self-absorbed characters would usually be absorbing enough for us when matched with Whit Stillman’s regularly sharply crafted comedic writing. But the self-acclaimed socialite doesn’t seem to be ticking the funny bones with The Last Days of Disco; much preferring to labour away with some ham-fisted plot developments and jejune romances.

Stillman still has fun working with the thankfully familiar Chris Eigeman as the neurotic assistant manager of the exclusive nightclub Des, whose way of breaking up with women is to tell them that he’s just realized he’s gay, plus Mackenzie Astin as do-gooding ad man Jimmy Steinway who is desperate to keep on the door vlist so that he can sneak in potential clients.

Even with a wonderfully nostalgic soundtrack, technically, The Last Days of Disco is a serviceable effort, but not the bourgeoisie farce third film in the Stillman canon that I was hoping for.

IMDb it.

#178: Barcelona (1994)

A couple of films back, I got around to my first ever Whit Stillman experience, with his much lauded debut feature Metropolitan. A comedy centring around the haute couture bourgeoisie of up state New York, it was a despicably insular and satirical film mimicking the preppy social class from within. I enjoyed it immensely.

Gallivanting off to a wood cabin in in Denmark for a ridiculously brief, two day summer holiday, friend Mads Kjeldgaard and I conducted another of our Filmklubben special screenings with Whit Stillman’s second feature. On a bigger budget than his first, Barcelona is more exoteric too, delving into the lives of two home-proud Americans, Fred & Ted (played by Stillman regulars Taylor Nichols and Chris Eigemann) living in the hedonistic paradigm of Barcelona in the late eighties. Scoring chicks, whilst rekindling their cousinly relationship, it’s a comedy of manners which wears it’s Woody Allen influence on it’s corduroy sleeve, with once-sprightly young filmmaker Wes Anderson no doubt sitting in the movie hall taking notes.

With a fabulous Catalonian score, beautiful setting and that famously astute Stillman dialogue, Barcelona is a pleasant fish out of the water comedy. Probably grilled with lemon and paprika. You know, ‘cos it’s Spain.

Here’s an audio review. Less critical, a bit more jovial.

IMDb it.

#153: Metropolitan (1990)

Just a hunch, guys, but I think we might be a tad overdressed for the Megadeath concert.

Although I might be a total noob when it comes to Whit ‘the witty’ Stillman, from just seeing this – his debut feature film of twenty two years back – his influence on the shape of the American Indie Comedy film industry and beyond is virtually unavoidable. The intellectually-instigated comedy, patient plot pacing and uncompromising directing/editing techniques, it’s all there, and then some!

With Metropolitan, Whit focuses on a collection of Manhattanites. Made up of the pompous yuppy class, their stagnant world is shaken up when social climber Tom Townsend tries to join the fratpack.

What’s most impressive with Whit’s filmmaking is that all the verbose, overtly-academic dialogue is delivered with such great panache that it transgresses the elite class audience which he is satirising and works on a multitude of levels. Ironic, absurd and at some points slapstick, Metropolitan is a masterclass in the thinking man’s comedy.

Blurb done, now put the review in your ears. There’s even a new jingle in it for ya.

IMDb it.

1) If you’re sick of this tosh and after decent film reviews, take a look at Neil Young’s website. He’s rather good, he is.

128: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Everybody knows this is nowhere.

As the acclaimed opening feature in this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it’s almost intimidating just how “Wes Anderson”, Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom  is. After dabbling with stop motion animation in “don’t call it a kids’ movie” Fantastic Mr. Fox, the corduroy connoisseur returns to the big screen with a predictably intricate take on childhood romance.

But is it all style over substance? Does Anderson supply the familiarly quirky, irreverent dialogue which we all know and love/hate? What the hell is John McClane doing there? Polarising audiences since 1996’s Bottle Rocket, I mulled over the film with friend and bloody great bloke Robert Fred Parker; asking the big questions, and receiving whopping answers.

IMDb it.

PS – Be sure to check out Rob’s illustrations, writing and other dextrously-inclined work over at his website – http://robfredparker.com/.