Last Days of Disco [1998]

Completing the loosely connected trilogy that also includes Metropolitan and Barcelona, writer-director Whit Stillman brings his signature style to this casually structured but acerbically witty ode to... well, to the last days of disco. Set in New York during 1980-81, the film follows its half-dozen central characters onto the strobe-lit dance floor of The Club--the anonymous name Stillman gave to the central setting, knowing at the time that his film would be released in close proximity to 54, the bigger-budget movie about the legendary and infamous nightclub Studio 54. In fact, Stillman's film captures the same period with greater accuracy, and draws us into the waning disco craze with more incisive wit and deft handling of a first-rate cast. The film's casual plot revolves around six recent college graduates, and Stillman charts their clashes and intimacies with a keen sense of human foibles and frailties, pausing throughout for such characteristic touches as a hilarious conversation about the sexual politics of Disney's Lady and the Tramp or the homoerotic subtext in an episode of Wild Kingdom. Sharp dialogue is in rich abundance here, and through it all Stillman captures the fading glory of disco as his characters make the transition toward adult responsibilities. It's here that we see how this film is subtly intertwined with Stillman's earlier work, and where we gain a fuller and more satisfying appreciation of a filmmaker who has carved a singular niche for himself in the world of independent movies. --Jeff Shannon

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