Studio 54
Institute of Contemporary Arts

Studio 54, Dir. Matt Tyrnauer, USA, 2018, 98 mins

Studio 54 was the epicentre of 1970s hedonism – a monumental magnet for beautiful stars, casual sex and mounds of cocaine, a den of excess that defined its own rules and enshrined the ostracized, queer and fabulous. Director Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) chronicles the rise and fall of this nightclub’s founders: two best friends from Brooklyn, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, who conquered New York City only to have it crumble before their eyes. With rare footage, a parade of colourful patrons and staff and brutally honest interviews with Schrager himself, Studio 54 is a riveting study in contradictions. Inside the palatial theatre-turned-disco, the crowd revelled in an atmosphere of total acceptance, whether drag queen, octogenarian, waiter or celebrity. Yet outside, a frenzied, excluded mob yearned to be noticed by the doorman and ushered into the sanctum of pulsating love. Schrager and Rubell’s glittering creation sprang from carefree naiveté and unbridled ambition – yet those same instincts managed to destroy it. This bracing story reveals how even the most culturally potent and transformative phenomena can be vulnerable and fleeting.
 
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