If asked to conjure up the meccas of American disco and club culture in the latter part of the 20th Century, Dallas, Texas would likely not be among the top stops to get your groove on. In The Starck Club Documentary-The Final Cut, writer/director Joseph F. Alexandre makes the case that the Starck Club — stunningly realized by French wunderkind designer Philippe Starck — rivaled any club in the nation at its height in the early 1980s, putting the Lone Star state on the party map. And with its pansexual legion of characters both on and off the dance floor, patrons’ prodigious use of MDMA (aka ecstasy), genre-pushing DJs, public sex of all kinds, and a one-of-a-kind design, the Starck Club packed ‘em for a long and hedonistic run. While replete with a great cast of storytellers, Alexandre’s doc is a surprisingly dry exercise that overstays its welcome well after the party has ended and the lights have gone on.
Opening its doors at the height of the conservative Reagan years, the Starck Club would be Philippe Starck’s first major design in North America. Described by one patron as having an aesthetic that mixed 2001: A Space Odyssey with Barbarella, the club’s entrance was framed by two huge half-moon doors that led to huge minimalist space that featured a legendary sunken dance floor, huge co-ed bathrooms, and a temperature controlled “cold bar.” Standing in the center was a large pillar-like monument like a huge capital letter H. So striking was the design that was featured in the 1987 dystopian flick Robocop.
“…stunningly realized by French wunderkind designer Philippe Starck — rivaled any club in the nation at its height in the early 1980s…”
To illustrate the rise and fall of the club, filmmaker Alexandre divides his film into distinct chapters — Sex, Drugs, Music, Fashion, Performance Artists, and Legacy — and pads each with anecdotes drawn from contemporary interviews with past patrons and employees of the club. And while there are some great tales to be sure — George W. Bush dropping in on the club one night, Grace Jones holding court on the dance floor, risque sex in the bathroom/on the dancefloor/in the kitchen and bar, DJ Rick introducing the nascent genre of hip-hop to the ecstasy fueled crowd, and the police raid that would foretell the end of the club — the film quickly begins to collapse under the weight of this somewhat clunky narrative structure. One wishes instead that the filmmaker had instead told the story of the club in a more linear manner, weaving together only the best of the collected stories.
All of which is a bit of a shame. For the viewer does come away with the sense that the Starck Club was an oasis of sexual freedom and creativity tucked into the corner of the southwest. A place where those on the margins came together to create an inclusive community that shook and shimmied to beat inside Starck’s cathedral to the disco gods.
The Starck Club Documentary-The Final Cut (2013) Written and Directed by Joseph F. Alexandre.
4 out of 10 stars