The Last Days of Disco

That a movie with a get-happy soundtrack, a toothsome cast, a stockpile of zingers, and a gentle plotline should outfox popular tastesas demonstrated by its modest box office returns seems counterintuitive. Or it does until one notices that, ahem, what we have here is a Whit Stillman picture. As a chronicler of the privileged set, Stillman is wonderful at creating lightly satirical movies of a literary temperament that are absorbed in the group dynamics of young people. His movies are aimed at savvy viewers who delectate in power struggles that are gift-wrapped in up-tempo conversations. Unlike Woody Allen, with whom he is inveterately compared, Stillman doesnt cast his movies with a lovable schlemiel, à la the type of character Allen usually plays, or an upstart who manages to gain entrée into posh social playgrounds. As such, this writer-director's movies drip exclusivity. All of the leading male characters in The Last Days of Disco (1999) are former Ivy Leaguers. And the two club-dwelling recent college grads (played by Chloë Sevigny and Kate Beckinsale) live on the Upper East Side while holding down low-paying, albeit cool jobs in publishing. (Naturally, their parents help them out.) Unlike Stillman's debut feature, Metropolitan (1990), which peered at New York debutante society, this mostly un-kitschy love letter to early-'80s New York nightlife contains a few intrusions from outside of the bubble, i.e., an assault outside of a discothèque perpetuated by a pair of class-conscious punks, and archival footage (anachronistically presented) of the great conflagration of disco records carried out at Chicago's Comiskey Park on July 12, 1979. Out of the flames of populist resentment, this phoenix stirs.

April 15: "A page...will begin with some principles of astronomy, or the motion of the earth; then come the laws of sound..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.

Dispute Over a Very Italian Piglet

Amara Lakhous delivers a mystery novel with its finger on the hot-button issues of today's Europe.  Immigration and multicultural conflicts erupt in the Italian city of Turin, as journalist Enzo Laganà looks to restore peace to his native burg.

Papers in the Wind

In this insightful novel by Eduardo Sacheri, a young girl left destitute by the death of her soccer-playing father is uplifted by the bold schemes of her uncle, his pals, and one newbie player to the professional leagues.