Film Friday: The Last Days of Disco

Disco music is such heavenlythe_last_days_of_disco ear candy. But it’s just not hip anymore—now only a parody genre, associated with ugly clothes, sleazy clubs, clear beer, and white powder. Its recent reputation is deserved but also undeserved, and The Last Days of Disco does what it can to reveal the strange silver lining behind all the nonsense. In this film, disco is important to trust-funders, book publishers, lawyers, ad-men, and everyone else who comes in contact with it, and seems to offer something like grace to all who can receive it.

A loose but clever story drifts behind the proceedings, following a yuppie group of friends, living in Manhattan after college. These characters bob in and out of frame, swaying to a sublime soundtrack of Carol Douglas, Blondie and Andrea True, each of them on screen only long enough to deliver their share of witty banter. They love the club: “It’s what I always dreamed of…cocktails, dancing, conversation, exchange of ideas and points of view…everyone’s here—everyone you know, and everyone you don’t know,” gushes Josh, budding defense attorney, to a pal. A real contrast to the banal churn of the workweek, indeed.

Most of them want to fall in love with each other, and some get halfway there, via the sexually liberated dance floor, and other inhibition lowering substances. But they don’t arrive at love, or they realize they aren’t set to arrive any time soon. “I’m beginning to think that maybe that old system of people getting married based on mutual respect and shared aspirations, and then slowly over time earning each other’s love and admiration…worked the best,” muses one character, Alice. “Well, we’ll never know!”, shrugs her friend in reply. Their aims are, on the whole, poor. But they do see the target. They all still believe in love.

They’re all staying alive—is that all? No. The club changes them too, and not entirely for the worse. There they experience all the world has to offer, and then the need for grace, at the end of the party, and for every other burnout. And, importantly, they never stop talking their way through the excellent script in front of them. Through toils and tears, their prattle often turns to wisdom, and they start to live that wisdom, even if they don’t much understand it. One hardly ever sees a film that displays such charity, and good faith in the possibility of living a life touched by grace. At the end of The Last Days of Disco, I found myself grinning forbearingly at the mad, crazy, dance party going on all around me.

– Zachary McNay

Check out Last Days of Disco at the Library – Call Number: PN1997.L378 1999 DVD

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