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'Go Go 70s': Cha Steals the Limelight

2008/09/25 Source

By Kwaak Jeyup
Korea Times Intern

Inspired by a true story, "Go Go 70s" relies on an embellished narrative and brushes past its characters; perhaps a little too much. The actors are left on their own to develop their otherwise spotty personalities, as if the director sowed them like seeds to see who would grow the tallest. The result is mixed at best, but an unexpected gem is found in Cha Seung-woo.

Cha, a rocker, guitarist and first-time actor, shines in virtually every scene, even in split-second shots. While the camera follows experienced actors Cho Seung-woo and Shin Min-ah much more, they fail to give their roles any substantial character. Their awkward discomfort is in stark contrast to Cha's effortless brilliance.

"Go Go 70s" is a film that traces the band The Devils' rise to stardom in the `70s, playing soul music. Go-go refers to a style of dance that became a kind of zeitgeist for Korean youth's thirst for freedom against an era of government-imposed curfews and regulations against long hair on men and miniskirts. The group, along with dancer Mimi (played by Sin), becomes the top act in Seoul by hosting all-night go-go parties ― eschewing the curfew ― until they are banned by the President Park Chung-hee administration and arrested for promoting indecency.

At the post-preview press conference Friday, the film's director Choi Ho dubbed Cha as "a beast from the Hongdae (indie scene) that roamed around the set …who could never repeat his scenes the same way". In fact, Cha admitted to have played himself for the role as Man-su the guitarist ― even in terms of parlance. However, that fails to explain how comfortable he looks in his `70s costume and hair, how genuine his annoyance seems when Jo's character, Sang-gyu, throws another of his bandleader tantrums or how his face moves with subtlety as they reconcile. In other words, he makes every scene memorable, and never taking himself too seriously allows his natural charisma to shine.

Jo, an actor with no less magnetism and armed with a solid filmography including 2005's "Marathon", strangely botches most of his scenes. Looking consistently labored and forced, Jo's Sang-gyu is overwhelmingly brooding but tries too hard to be dreamy at the same time. The result is an icy, sculpted exterior incessantly modified to achieve perfection but never with a clear idea of what that may be. Even his usually solid singing falters at certain points. As he described himself in the press conference, his acting is "filled with mannerisms".

The director's claims of considering the whole band and dancers as a collective protagonist may have convinced toward the beginning of the film, but he ends up circling overly around Sang-gyu without ever developing his character. As shown in the freewheeling recording studio scene, simply "having fun" can be memorable. It refreshes the audience, feeling as if they have been invited to a private jam session. In fact, this is one of the few scenes where Jo looks comfortable. But by choosing to concentrate on the bandleader, the film is distracted from its central message of having fun.

Among other characters, Sin somehow combines her role's tame, soft-spoken charm with explosive dance moves. Lee Sung-min's influential pop music columnist is brilliant as a supporting cast member, as he also does not take himself seriously and adapts well to every scene.

In theaters Oct. 2. 118 minutes. 15 and over. Distributed by Showbox/Mediaplex.

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