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We’re dancing like in a Dolce Vita

With lights and music on

Our love is made in the Dolce Vita

Nobody else than you!

–Ryan Paris, “Dolce Vita”

Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco houses countless moments of musical power, deserving of full tribute to their beauty. A certain dance move Charlotte (Kate Beckinsale) does to “The Oogum Boogum Song,” the way “More, More, More” hits the bridge just as Dez (Chris Eigeman) confesses his pseudo-homosexuality, the simple combination of “Rocking Chair,” and people ferociously coupling off and going at it.

The whole soundtrack, mostly disco, with a little bit of reggae and rhythm & blues for good measure, could be the subject of a treatise. “Doctor’s Orders,” “Good Times,” and “Got to Be Real,” are just a few of Stillman’s classic songs in The Last Days of Disco. But there is one track that stands out among the rest. Every time I play it, someone in the next room shouts out, “What is that? I love this song!” It’s Ryan Paris’ “La Dolce Vita.”

It scores the film’s climax, as the IRS and Assistant District Attorney Josh “Loon” Neff (Matt Keeslar) raid The Club – Stillman’s take on Studio 54. As Fire Marshals and Police Officers step onto the dance floor, confetti rains down from above as Paris’ synthesized refrain bounces along.

“La Dolce Vita” sums up perfectly the twofold thematic content of The Last Days of Disco, and Stillman’s entire “Doomed-Bourgeois-in-Love” tetralogy. Namely, that even wealthy, superficial people ultimately want the same things as the rest of us: genuine love and human connection. And on a more emotional, visceral level, the song suggests that while one occasionally feels down in the dumps, sometimes all it takes is a bar of wonderfully-smelling soap, or a song with a great hook, or a pretty Spanish girl reading you War and Peace to set things straight. Alicia Bridges’ “I Love the Nightlife,” also from the Last Days soundtrack, echoes a similar sentiment.

While “La Dolce Vita” was a massive, worldwide hit, Ryan Paris himself is a bit of an enigma. He continued to release albums, but never recorded another song that made the charts. Born Fabio Roscioli, in 1953, Paris himself seems like a character in a Whit Stillman movie. While he was clearly Italian, the English language song, his last name, and the location of his one music video (naturally, right outside the Eiffel Tower) further muddle the waters of his identity. Like the fake-Brit Rose, in Stillman’s Damsels in Distress, Paris is proof that you can make yourself into whatever you want to be.

The song starts as a joyful championing of the Sweet Life, but later takes on the darker side of the Fellini film after which the song is name. At the end, Ryan Paris is left empty and abandoned:

I’m so alone in the Dolce Vita

Oh baby, telephone

The magic’s gone in the Dolce Vita

Nobody else than you! 

But what takes it beyond the tragic ending of “La Dolce Vita”, and into a zone that is quintessentially Stillmanian, is the final line, the poorly translated and anti-rhyming “Nobody else than you!” Even as the lyrics turn dark, it’s ultimately one of those songs that makes people happy, no matter what. Even whoever happens to be sitting in the room next door.