film note: 54: The Director’s Cut

54: The Director’s Cut
United States 2015
Directed by Mark Christopher

This “director’s cut” of a mildly controversial New York 70s-disco-period film from the 90s has been getting some play in the gay press recently for restoring a male-male kiss between lead Ryan Phillipe’s character and his john, as well as with his best friend, played by Breckin Meyer. The latter is shot from the back of Meyer’s head, however, so it’s hard to see what the suits were so upset about.

I remember nothing about the original cut, except for the constant presence of Phillippe’s lithe twinky torso, which seems to be the main reason this movie exists anyway. But his, and Mike Meyers’ as Steve Rubell, Studio 54’s always-high impresario, and pretty much everyone else’s performances are so slight and sincere that when the interminable payback reel comes, as it always does in American movies when anybody has any fun, it’s hard to register what they did that was so bad. Even Rubell’s sleazy attempts to suck all the bartender’s cocks come across as almost-innocent fun.

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Maybe that’s why I had to struggle to finish watching about halfway-in. The film never seemed particularly committed to whatever forms of casual hedonism it was depicting.

So for the sin of being unable to explain why disco, or New York for that matter, was such a big deal, director Mark Christopher went on to make a feature called Pizza, and a couple episodes of Real Life: The Musical.

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