October 27, 2011 / Blogs, Filmwell
Des in Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco: “You know that Shakespearean admonition, ‘To …
Religion, however ironically disguised, makes its presence felt early in both of Stillman’s previous films, but for much of The Last Days the only cathedral is the dance club, the only faith an ill-fated allegiance to “the disco movement.” That absence, combined with the realistically rendered downward spiral of Alice’s search for love, lends the story a slowly accumulating gravitas that has much to do with moral consequence and spiritual emptiness: isolation surrounded by copulation, loneliness in the middle of a partying crowd. The director’s trademark irony falls away for entire scenes: he’s playing for keeps. This ain’t no party. This ain’t no disco. This ain’t no foolin’ around.
Armond White comments that Stillman’s singular interest in character “reveals each one’s moral quest. The effort to behave decently, even by the most eccentric (self-serving) standards, gives Stillman’s upperclass stories a surprising kick and a fine grain.” It is marvelous to see these moral quests extend beyond the confines of a single movie, as a handful of familiar characters in fascinating variations are stripped of superficial childhood securities to make their slow, stumbling journeys toward grace.
Criterion has just released Whit Stillman’s marvelous 1998 film The Last Days of Disco, and Filmwell will be celebrating the event with a series of reviews that consider all three of the director’s pictures.
It is a truism universally acknowledged, that Whit Stillman is the Jane Austen of indie film. But truisims only become truisms because they’re at least partly true, and this one most certainly is. . . .