SIFF Says:54 was primed to turn the art house film world into a disco inferno when it was scheduled for release on August 28, 1998. A chronicle of the booze-soaked, drug-fueled bacchanalia of New York City’s infamous Studio 54, the film was chock-full of mainstream actors hoping to prove their mettle in a dramatic ensemble setting, including Salma Hayek (Desperado), Breckin Meyer (Clueless), Neve Campbell (the Scream movies), Mark Ruffalo (Safe Men), and lead performances from up-and-comer Ryan Phillippe (Nowhere) as a Jersey-born bartender who gets caught up in the madness of the scene, and Mike Myers (one year removed from Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery), in his first dramatic role, as corrupt club co-owner Steve Rubell. But after test screenings went south, Miramax sent in a team of editors to recut the film and forced first-time writer/director Mark Christopher to reshoot nearly 40 minutes of material, excising nearly all of the film’s edgier content. Now, 17 years later, Christopher has recut the film to its earlier form—retaining the original film’s moral ambiguity as well as the bisexual love triangle between Phillippe, Hayek, and Meyer that test audiences balked at—wrote a brand-new voiceover, and sent it onto the film festival circuit with nearly 40 minutes of unseen material. 54 lives again. Hit the dance floor and show us your moves.
The 1998 release of this movie was such a weird botch that news of a director’s cut seemed silly at first. (Like what else is getting one, Krippendorf’s Tribe
?) And yet, the 54
that could have been, the gay one, has been circulating for years. It’s a totally different story. Still a little wiggly at times (hair is an issue), but worthy of reappraisal. Bonus: It preserves the best bit from the original, Mike Myers’s immortal “I wanna suck ya cock,” delivered in Steve Rubell’s Brooklyn brogue to a timid Ryan Phillippe. (SEAN NELSON)
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