Cast: Jung Woo, Han Hyo Joo, Jin Goo, Kang Ha Neul, Jo Bok Rae, Kim Yun Seok, Kim Hee Ae, Jang Hyun Sung, Kwon Hae Hyo, Kim In Kwon.
Running Time: 118 minutes
Synopsis: Set in the titular Korean folk club, C’EST SI BON follows a trio of singers who start off solo, but soon come together, only for other aspects of life to get in the way.
Before K-Pop’s infectious anthems, melodies, and liberal use of the English language brought worldwide acclaim to the Korean music industry, usually with the use of assembled boy/girl bands, there was a strong folk scene. Folk was a surprising rebellious alternative to Trot, an almost exclusive Korean genre of music. The folk scene grew from small, but legendary, clubs such as C’EST SI BON.
This dramatised version of events excels in managing to hit all the correct nails with the correct amount of force. You can almost hear the formula being followed to, as we see an underground club grow in prominence while a selection of young competitive talent must work together to realise their true potential. Along the way there’s some romance, which of course conflicts with the work ethic of the group. It’s all very familiar, but it’s done well.
The music is fantastic, and Western crowds will have their eyes opened to some Korean classics they’ve never heard before, while also enjoying some iterations of popular songs such as Tom Jones’ Delilah. Such musical moments are never too overblown, and yet they still have great emotional resonance. Once the trio are finally placed together, it’s easy to hear how wonderfully their voices work together.
The cast are very solid, and can carry out convincing friction as well as heartfelt friendship. It’s interesting to see that the actual group of Twin Folio have become a trio for dramatic purposes, and the real life members Chang Sik (Jo) and Hyeong Joo (Kang), soon fade into the background while fictionalised member Geun Tae (Jung Woo) takes the majority of the screen time. This is probably to allow for greater freedom, as well as compensating for a lack of interesting and film worthy material. Not that that’s a bad thing in the slightest, as it captures the raw essence of the music being performed.
With the 1970s lovingly recreated in terms of stunning fashion and great special effects, C’EST SI BON achieves its main goal of transporting us back in time. The music is delightfully fresh considering its age, and the chemistry between the leads is loving and infectious. It may not be a groundbreaking cinematic achievement. But it’s a warm feeling piece of nostalgia that passionately portrays some of South Korea’s past, something more of their films should do with the increased levels of interest around the globe.
[usr=3]C’EST SI BON is released in select US and Canadian cinemas from 13th February.