Whit Stillman,

Whit Stillman,

A weeklong electronic journal.
June 10 1998 3:30 AM

Whit Stillman,

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       I know you probably didn't get the chance to see the film yesterday and, actually, I'm not that upset. Maybe it's for the best. Slipping in alone, on the spur of the moment, is often a good way to see a movie--expectations are more reasonable and the Saturday night hassle avoided--but one of The Last Days of Disco's themes is, precisely, the allure of "group social life." It's definitely a good "date movie," and making arrangements to go with the right person might take some thought and planning. Better still, go with a group of eight or so, with some romantic matching or rematching possibilities involved. Afterward you could go out for drinks, dinner, or even dancing, depending on the time zone. In any case, try to slip a cold beer into the screening. It goes very well with popcorn, balancing the salty taste. There should be no awkwardness with the sound of the beer can's pop-top as the film's start is pretty loud (if it isn't, please complain to the projectionist).
       This is supposed to be a diary, but last week was more interesting than this one for me. On the weekend of May 29 the film opened, and we also had to vacate the loft we've occupied since 1984. The symmetry goes even further: The first shot of what lay ahead came the morning after Barcelona opened four years ago--the landlord's son called to 1) congratulate us on the reviews and 2) raise the rent. It seemed unbelievable--we thought we were rent stabilized and had worked and spent to make the place habitable--but turned out to be all too true. He wanted to more than triple the rent and Sunday, May 31, was the hard out date on our lease. Phew. Ideas have consequences: In the disco era a friend persuaded me of the wisdom of not owning real property; now I know the downside of that--if they own it, they can throw you out. Now all I own are the films' negatives and copyrights (except, I'm not sure the folks at Warner Bros. are entirely clear about that, either. Maybe they'll start eviction proceedings, too).
       So now we have no Manhattan abode and are staying this week at an economical but not-bad efficiency suites hotel on East 34th Street. Yesterday, after making my Slate deadline--late of course--I tried to do phone interviews with a set of journalists who, I think, support the film; each was sharp and simpatico (as people who like the film tend to be), and in most cases there was some history of conversations four or eight years ago--Frank Gabrenya (Columbus Dispatch), Bill Brownstein (MontrealGazette), Bob Fenster (ArizonaRepublic), and Sean Means (Salt Lake Tribune)--but meanwhile, the phones in the office were going crazy and I with them. Sam Fusco of Castle Rock had a new slew of ad looks with a banner headline that read "America's Top Critics Agree! 'The Last Days of Disco' Is the Year's Sweetest and Funniest New Comedy!" What do you think? Gramercy agrees, substituting "Witty and Wonderful!" from a network reviewer with lots of other quotes to back that one up.
       What I like about the "top critics agree" formulation is that if there is any less-than-stellar--or, in fact, any odious--review, well, that just means the writer is not a "top critic," because the top critics all agree.
       EntertainmentWeekly, in particular, is covering itself with glory this week. Look at that report card. So there. Cyrus Krohn of Slate wanted me to comment on some misguided review I haven't seen, but why bother. It's kinder not to. All day there were ups and downs as reviews came in, including those from the wet blanket brigade. But as discussed yesterday, why not focus on those who are kind, generous, and talented?
       Speaking of whom, last night we went with Todd Solondz (Welcome to the Dollhouse and Happiness) and Ann Goulder (casting genius) to see a screening of Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight with a free dinner afterward at Osteria del Circo. We sat at the table of the newsman John Johnson and Cyndi Stivers of TimeOut. We really like Soderbergh. He was there first (though not at the dinner). Bill Goldman was at another table. I guess he got back from the Cannes Film Festival OK. Bill has a very close relationship with Castle Rock, and when I was first contemplating selling out to Beverly Hills in 1991, the people there suggested that I talk with him. I went up to his apartment behind the Carlyle, and he generously gave me the lowdown--Castle Rock was the best company he'd ever dealt with, which has been my experience too. But these are very hard times in the movie business if you don't have a Titanic, TrumanShow, or even WeddingSinger--or, in Castle Rock's case, Seinfeld. With that gravy train coming to a halt, will the company be able to afford films such as Barcelona or The Last Days ofDisco? I hope we can get them into the black on the film to repay their support.
       At the dinner we almost forgot Charlie Rose, if you can believe it, but hopped a cab and got back to the hotel during the Peter Gomes segment--the one just before The Last Days ofDisco came on. Thank God, they do edit that show. It didn't seem at all bad. I still spaced on that question but was not at all a disgrace. They must have edited it. The pace seemed very sharp, even though I felt I was operating entirely in slo-mo while I was there. Not at all bad. Phew, again. Double phew. Meanwhile, please see the movie. There's also a good, though brief, piece in today's USAToday on one of our heroines, Jennifer Beals. Friday is when the film is breaking wide, opening in many more towns and cities. I would be grateful if you saw it.