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Christopher Webster [Celluloid 06.22.09] movie review comedy drama

Year: 2008
Directors: Ho Choi
Writers: Ho Choi
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: agentorange
Rating: 6.7 out of 10

Don't be fooled by the disco-inferno poster to the right of this review. Go Go 70's isn't some roller skate movie, nor is it a feel good rom-com about karaoke competitions in the 70s or something. This is a movie about nothing less than revolution. The best kind of revolution. The kind of revolution that only rock n' roll can bring to a nation. A revolution that dresses itself up as trivial pop culture but really has the power to change the way people see themselves and the world around them. It's Elvis bringing sex to American bandstand. It's The Kinks putting the swing in "swinging London." It's Motown putting black music on the top of the charts and refusing to step down. If history has shown us anything, it's that there is no better rallying cry than a pop song to unite a country's frustrated, young generation.

Go Go 70's (Gogo chilship) then, is two things. It is a lovingly crafted biopic about one of Korea's longest running, and most cherished rock bands, The Devils, and it is a film about a ten year period when Korea was going through intense political change. Okay, it's also got some amazing music, so maybe it's three things.

If we are to believe the band's story, then "The Devils" were responsible for bringing the sweet sounds of American soul to, well, Seoul. When the film begins, we see the band getting their start playing country music to American G.I.s on military bases. It's here however, that they are also exposed to American Soul and they become quickly obsessed, even resorting to theft to get their hands on original LPs from the States.

It's not long before the band is tight enough to travel to Seoul for an annual, battle of the bands contest. However, their sound is not met with the enthusiasm they expect. Remember when Marty McFly plays Chuck Berry for high school kids in Back to the Future and they look at him like he's from another planet? It's sort of that kind of thing. It's a sound that's too new, played at the wrong time. From there the band finds a supporter in a music journalist who mentors them through the trials of their first few years. As with any underdog story, they persevere through countless political and personal hardships to become a music sensation and pop culture icons.

However, its the not-so-subtle political subtext of the film that takes it beyond being just a Korean clone of That Thing You Do. It's not just the groovy music, wacky costumes, and unique perspective on pop culture that makes Go Go 70's truly compelling. Watching The Devils rise to prominence, enduring vicious crackdowns by the junta on long hair and miniskirts along the way, we realize we're watching a film about the fall of a military dictatorship and that this band's story represents an entire country challenging Korea's crumbling conservative conventions.

As much as I loved the architecture of Go Go 70s however, I was less than taken by the ensemble cast of whom none seemed to really shine through as a charismatic lead. Real-life rocker, Cha Seung-woo, turns in a surprisingly deft performance, but on the whole the film could have used a more clearly defined protagonist. But on the whole, Go Go 70s is a fascinating and fun look at Korea during a time of intense cultural and political change.

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Larry T (9 months ago) Reply

This movie was loosely based on the real band. I was a member of The Devils from 1968-1970. I was the only American to ever be a member of the band. We practiced many hours every day to convey the Soul sound to our Korean audiences.

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