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Film Editorial

54documentary.jpg Studio 54
 

Director: Matt Tyrnauer

The rollicking story of the legendary NYC nightclub Studio 54, and its gloriously decadent, brief, initial two-and-a-half year run, has been told already via the fictional 1998 Mike Myers-starring pic ‘54’. This superior documentary focuses on the founders, odd couple college friends Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Rubell was a charismatic flamboyant fixer and entrepreneur who knew everyone; Schrager was more introverted and practical, although, as we later learn, he also had close relatives in the mob. All the major players are interviewed here (the late Rubell in archive footage) to discuss the cultural impact of the racially diverse and gay-friendly, if elitist and celebrity-schmoozing, club. The various interviewees’ disarming frankness (particularly Schrager’s) stops the piece from descending into mere self-mythologizing. Still, it’s hard not to marvel at Rubell and Schrager’s seat-of-the-pants buccaneering spirit, and the various hastily improvised shortcuts they made to get 54 opened on time - the duo realised at the last minute that they didn’t have a drink licence for the club so secured a restaurant licence, renewable daily. The picture features a wealth of video footage, including a fascinating clip of an off-duty Michael Jackson where he pays tribute to Rubell’s hosting spirits, as well as a selection of choice archive still photographs featuring all the usual suspects (Bianca Jagger, Warhol). There’s a surprising dearth of disco deep cuts especially in the second half, although the soundtrack does find room for selected bangers such as Manu Debango’s pre-disco classic, Soul Makossa, Silver Connection’s Fly Robin Fly, and Sylvester’s anthemic You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real), the latter deployed in a thrilling sequence in which the makers recreate the feel of entering the club for the first time.