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April 05, 2012


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"What a fucking spectacularly good film it is."

That passionate speech Josh gives at the end, about how "Disco will never die"? Just take the text of that and substitute 'disco' with 'The Last Days of Disco', and that's pretty much how I feel about it.

Jeff McMahon

Okay, I'm almost certain this is just me, but: I've never seen a Stillman film because every trailer that I've seen makes them look f*&(ing painful. Is it safe to say there's more to them than what those indicate?

The Siren

A great female friendship...I do wish I'd seen this last night but that line would have me sliding onto the floor of the BAM theatre. Watching Last Days of Disco when it was released was something of a personal watershed for me, because Kate Beckinsale's character of Charlotte was so much like a friend of mine that I left the theatre trembling. And the friendship, which was on the skids anyway, ended that night. It couldn't survive my seeing just what "Charlotte" really was. That scene where she publicly asks Alice why she's taking antibiotics; thank GOD I was never in a position to have my real-life friend do that, but she totally would have, without a second thought. Charlotte's behavior in that scene is one of the most purely vicious female-on-female things I've encountered in a movie, precisely because it is so very, very much the way certain women act toward their supposed friends.

I'd go beyond "underminer;" Charlotte is a straight-up bitch, and Beckinsale is damn near flawless playing her. I never go to movies looking for tips for my own life, but Last Days of Disco worked out that way, and I've been personally grateful to Stillman ever since.

Glenn Kenny

Point taken, Siren, but you know, as a 52-year-old white heterosexual male of progressive inclination, I use the word "bitch" with extreme caution if at all!

While I sympathize with your dilemma, it does underscore something about Stillman's artistry (and Sturges', and the artistry of a precious few others): as much as his dialogue may not reflect how "real people" talk, the depiction of behavior, attitude and dynamic is dead-on accurate.

The Siren

Wise man! I also deploy the word bitch (in a serious way, as opposed to "bitch please," although come to think of it I don't use that one much either) only when more than amply warranted. Charlotte merits it, but good.

And YES to Stillman's eagle eye for human interaction. I never sit through his movies thinking "why the heck did s/he do that?" I should add, in defense of Alice, that I didn't see her as a dupe, although I have already made it clear that I'd have personal reasons for that. I saw her as a girl whose own personality is so far from Charlotte's that she doesn't have the equipment to spot the undermining. Instead her insecurity makes her think that her friend is just setting the coolness bar higher than she can reach.

James Wolcott wrote recently about how much he likes the novel Stillman wrote of Last Days of Disco, and now I really, really want to read it myself.

Joe Gross

Based on my reaction to the first three episodes, viewed on a TV in private, and the reaction to a large mid-day screening at SXSW in the lovely-but-slightly-uncomfortable-in-the-way-that-only-old-movies-houses-can-be-cuz-everyone-was-shorter-then Paramount Theatre, "Girls" is gonna be bigger than curly fries. It is also absolutely terrific, pants-wettingly funny in spots and never so sweet to be cloying. I was not in the "Tiny Furniture" camp much at all, but I was a total Dunham convert after this.

David Ehrenstein

Siren the mian reason "I never sit through his movies thinking "why the heck did s/he do that?" is because his characters go out of their way to state their objectives. They have reasons for doing whatever they do. The reasosn may be wrong and their thinking misguided, but the do actually THINK. That's one of the reasosn why his work is so refreshing.


Jeff, I would typically be in your boat as well if I were to judge Stillman's work strictly through trailers and the like, but despite the fact that I would probably never like or hang out with the type of characters that typically populate his films, they somehow come off incredibly fascinating to watch, as more articulate posters than me have elaborated on above. It's hard for me to express exactly what it is...most of the time, films like these come off smug and self satisfied, but somehow Stillman manages to sidestep these traps, at least for me. I say give them a try with an open mind.

Joel Bocko

OK, I haven't seen Tiny Furniture yet, so perhaps I should wait to vent, but hell... Personally, I kind of resent this increasing confusion between Today's Youth and a very tiny slab of said youth which, despite its cultural and socioeconomic idiosyncrasy, seems to be the only group making films that get any attention. It's not so much that they're atypical - hell, most interesting artists are - as that they're atypical in not particularly interesting ways, and that nobody seems to notice they're atypical (starting, perhaps, with themselves). And I say this as someone who kinda liked some mumblecore.

I like Stillman's work because he views these characters with affection but also recognition of how unusual (and even how marginalized) his depicted demimondes are...and the characters, for all their occasional narcissism and navel-gazing, seem to recognize it too, and exhibit an insecurity and mixture of confusion and (limited) self-awareness which makes their eccentricities amusing and endearing.


Have you completely forgotten that she didn't like James Mason? And didn't like him for the wrong reasons.


Yuval: As I revealed to Glenn in another thread, Dunham has recently been having sexual dreams about James Mason (in his later years, yet), so she may have come around, so to speak. She did not mention, however, if her dream Mason was "bigger than life."


Great to see all the love for LAST DAYS OF DISCO. The New Beverly's got a double feature of it and BARCELONA later this month that I'm pretty goshdarned giddy about - first chance I've had to see them on the big screen since back in the day.

Wish I could've been at that Dunham screening. And not just because my original METROPOLITAN one-sheet is lacking an Eigeman to go beside the Stillman and Nichols autographs I got at the Cinefamily screening last year. (I swear I'm not that guy, but just that once, I was that guy.)

On a related note, how about some thoughts on DAMSELS IN DISTRESS? I caught it last night and I can't remember the last time I was quite this conflicted about a movie. Great affection hand in hand with serious irritation. I can't imagine sitting through it a second time and yet I'm strangely compelled to see it again tonight.


My reaction was more moderate affection, no irritation.

David Ehrenstein

How could anyone not like James Mason?

James Keepnews

Beats me, but I can fully understand how one could not like CAREER GIRLS, whose status in Leigh's oeuvre sure does not rise to "great" for me. It's doesn't help that the film that is bookended by two unassailably great Leigh werke, SECRETS & LIES and TOPSY-TURVY, and certainly not the fault of the superb Ms.s Cartlidge and (most esp.) Steadman whose excellent performances and generous rapport are the film's finest aspects. Nevertheless, it plays like pretty weak tea comparatively, double-dipped from themes and tropes we'd seen before and better from Sir Mike.


When I saw Stillman at his retrospective at Indiana University last month he mentioned that some of the crew for TINY FURNITURE worked on his new DAMSELS IN DISTRESS and he couldn't have been happier with them, for whatever that's worth. DISCO is my favorite of the four (and his novelization, after-the-fact, isn't half bad either).

When asked about his being an obvious influence on newer filmmakers like Dunham, he said that he would like to think of his work as "mumblecore with better diction". Ha.

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