Films are one of the best ways to explore nostalgic feelings of one’s childhood and teenage/young adult years. They can also present younger audiences whose idols consist of 90s icons like Chlöe Sevigny and Liv Tyler, the urge to have been born just a little bit sooner.
Luckily, this year’s Film POP lineup is full of fun throwback films. What’s interesting about this year’s selection is that they don’t entirely fit the norms of the eras that they were created in, with characters that are stuck in the past or perhaps far ahead of their times. With films like Empire Records (1995) that didn’t catch on until years after its original release, or The Last Days of Disco(1998) which employs a unique and satirical 90s perspective on 80s New York—this year’s selection will give audiences a unique take on the tales of post-punk, post-disco, and post-record store days.
Empire Records (1995) presents us with characters who perhaps, like us, carried with them a sense of nostalgia. When the record store they love so dearly becomes threatened by a large chain, the film is further contextualized by its backdrop; the independent record industry that was on a steady decline and susceptible to corporate takeover. Although the film’s debut was not a commercial success, Empire Records went on to become a cult hit years after its original release, resonating with a whole new generation. Perhaps what was able to withstand the film’s initial release was its depiction of misfit teens and teenage angst, something so endearing that it continues to be appreciated by audiences today.
Hail the New Puritan (1987) gives us a glimpse into London’s post-punk era of the ’80s through a day in the life of choreographer Michael Clark. Clark’s choreography radically merged ballet with provocative, absurd and surrealist forms of dance. The film includes musical features from The Fall, subsequently giving us a glimpse into the magnitude of Mark E. Smith’s influence, frontman and consistent member of the band. Having passed away this year, the film stands as a powerful tribute to Mark E. Smith, and his impact on the post-punk scene.
Set in East LA, Salsa (1988) is dance film which rides to a different beat. The film, which centres around an annual salsa competition at the Luna Salsa Club, is jam-packed with fast-paced, hot, and fun-loving energy. With this year marking its 30th anniversary, the film will definitely have audiences yearning for a hot sweaty night at a 1980’s local salsa club.
A film which has a more satirical take of the early 1980s is Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco (1998). The film stars Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevignyn as two young adults delving into the world of New York Socialites, frequenting Studio 54-esque clubs. While the film presents us with the lavish and extravagant sides of Manhattan’s upper class, Stillman’s critical stance on the bourgeoisie plays in, making this film a romantic comedy that’s more than meets the eye. Whether it’s the last days of disco, punk, salsa, or the Empire Records store, this year’s Film POP is sure to throw you back into your late 80s and 90s nostalgia.
The Last Days of Disco will be introduced by special guest, author Lizzy Goodman, a fan of the film, whose 2017 oral history Meet Me in the Bathroom chronicles the rise and fall of New York’s early aughts rock ’n roll renaissance. Empire Records will be followed by a Q&A with Director Allan Moyle, moderated by Chandler Levack.