C'est si bon 쎄시봉(2015) Korean Movie Review: NOW ON DVD RePOST

A Nostalgic story about a man and his friends and lover during his youth.  

C'est si bon 쎄시봉(2015) #KMovie Review

Music, love, loss, nostalgia, and a wedding cake.


#KimYunSeok #JungWoo #KimHeeAe #HanHyoJoo #JangHyunSung #JinGoo #KimInKwon #KangHaNeul #JoBokRae #Kmovie #KCinema #쎄시봉 #TwinFolio #Cestsibon



NOW AVAILABLE IN DVD IN KOREA!


Introduction
There are movies that are just bad. There are movies that are just okay. There are movies that are great.


The movies I have the most problem with are the movies that had the potential to be great but missed nailing it. You see many of those movies in Korean cinema because its screenplays suffer from the lack of what the literary world calls the “Editor” which differs from its cinema counterpart.  It is very obvious that the screenplays over in Korea have pretty serious structural issues to them that could have been fixed with a decent “Editor”.

C'est si bon” (2015) 쎄시봉 is a movie that could have been great but only achieves being good for the same reason.


The Plot
What is C'est si bon (2015) 쎄시봉?

According to Wikipedia, it is a 1947 French song roughly translated into "It's So Good". However, for this movie, it is referencing the old concert hall/lounge that existed in Korea during the 1970s which produced a lot of famous Korean singers of the time.

How was the 70s for you?

Real life "Twin Folio"

If you would believe all the promotion for this movie, you would think that it is a music movie about “Twin Folio”, a real life band, fictionalized by adding a fictional third member as an audience stand-in to show you the artists’ experience of the time. This is a common setup for movies of this genre.

You would actually be wrong!
Once again the promotion lies!


C'est si bon” (2015) 쎄시봉 is not actually either about the music or the real life band’s story. Rather it is, for most part, a simply story about the fictional third member of the band falling in love with a fictional unknown actress and then breaking up with her while the music of the real life band plays in the backdrop. It is a movie that seems to have been created by expanding upon the lyrics of the band’s song “Wedding cake”.



Now the night has deepened and silence has fallen, a sound of knocking on the window
I stand up from my sleepless bed and open the window and look out
No one is there but a lonely wedding cake left behind.
Who left it here? I know. My sorrowful love.
When the night is gone, I am gone. To a guy I don’t want be with.
I am gone weeping. To a guy who is not you.
Excerpt from the lyrics of Twin Folio’s “Wedding cake”

The movie starts with the establishment of the band C'est si bon by a producer. You are introduced to the members of the band as if they would all be important characters.  However, the two real members of the band are at best 3rd tier supporting characters. Their total screen time is only about 15 minutes of a 122 minute movie and most of that are them singing. Both characters’ non-singing dialogue combined could be fit on to 2 pages of single sided blank paper using a 12 font and double spaced lettering.


C'est si bon” (2015) 쎄시봉 is this fictional member’s story! To be blunt, it could be said that the movie creates a fictional third member as a protagonist just as an excuse to use the band’s songs. Even the secondary supporting characters are fictional. With the story itself, it could be placed anywhere and anytime. 

Well about 75% of it can…
I’ll get to the fourth act later.



Is it a musical?
While this is totally ignored in the promotion,  C'est si bon” (2015) 쎄시봉 is essentially a “Juke box Musical”.

It is using already made songs out of context instead of original songs tailored for the context of the story.

For the first 3 acts of this 4 act movie, about 40 percent of the scenes have someone singing it them.  Many of the scenes have episodes about how a song was created using because of the girl. The reason I am saying “essentially” is because strictly saying format wise, it is difficult to categorize C'est si bon” (2015) as a musical. However, in the area of story structure, the manner the songs are used is the same.


In regards to “Juke box Musicals,” there are two extremes to how the use of music is justified. On one extreme, you have “Mamma Mia!” that does not give a damn about justifying the use of the music. The story had no connection to the music or the band that created the music. On the other extreme, you have “Jersey Boys” since that movie was about using the band’s total musical catalogue to tell the story of the band. Thus, C'est si bon” (2015) is in the middle somewhere.


Since we’re talking about musicals, let’s talk about the music in C'est si bon” (2015). The band “Twin Folio” was called a folk band during their day and was rather tragically short lived. The movie is filled with their music which is actually a mix of their original material and covers/”adaptation” of easy listening pop standards of the time. It was a very common practice of the time to take an American pop standard and make up one’s own Korean lyrics and releasing it as original materials.

Of course no one paid any license fees.

A key song in the movie is Twin Folio’s “Wedding cake” which is a cover of a song of the same name by Connie Francis.



This made me wonder whether this movie had all the copyright stuff cleared up or not.

Overall the music in the movie is nice if you like the period of music and there is something new to listening 70s Korean interpretation of American old pop standards. As a side note, it was interesting to see most of the singer characters in the movie having church choir backgrounds. This is actually mentioned a lot in the movie.

This reminds me of a lot of music movies about R&B singers of old.

The actual quality of the singing is pretty decent which made me think that the band members were chosen for their singing skills rather than acting skills. Since they are barely in the movie and most of the scenes have them singing, I think singing skills were the priority.

If I think about it now, the actual male protagonist in the show does not sing that much and doesn’t actually sing that well. The movie is just good at hiding it by pairing him up with the other far better singing actors playing the real life band members.

One thing regarding the music that I had an issue with initially was the fact that the songs were so obviously digitally cleanup and auto-tuned to death that the sound is so clear that it feels so artificial. Considering that the songs should be folk music, having an image of the cast of “Glee” singing a Bob Dillan song stuck in my head was somewhat disconcerting.

Okay… It is not that bad but you get the idea!

It took some time to get used to it. Afterwards I was good with the music but it also really made me notice that the portrayal of the 70s in first 3 acts of the movie could be described in a similar manner.


The 70s portrayed in this movie is nowhere close to the “real” 70s even though the movie put a lot of effort in inserting signature elements of the time period. Rather, the 70s in “C'est si bon” (2015) is heavily filtered by the current 21 century’s rose tinted nostalgia glasses.

It is too bright.
Too flashy.
Too sophisticated.

In a lot of ways, it is made to represent how we view our youth through our rather faulty memories as this beautiful time. You can say this approach was also applied to the music of the period too.

Is this intentional?
Or just a coincidence?


I was not sure until the movie entered its 4th act and became a very different movie.

For one last time, let me see my love
Without considering my hurting heart, the inconsiderate morning bellis are ringing off from the distance.
For a slim chance I could get a glimpse of you, I look out the window
You are already gone and could not be found anywhere
I cry endlessly looking at the left behind wedding cake.
I cry endlessly looking at the left behind wedding cake.
Excerpt from the lyrics of Twin Folio’s “Wedding cake”


The Fourth act! So wonderful!
The first 3 acts goes through your standard “love won and love lost” story. And the movie could actually have been ended there. It would have been just this little charming movie combining the joy of youth for Koreans with the pain of youth also.  It is not a bad experience ending the movie in this manner.

However, this was not the end!

The movie has a 4th act which last for about 25 minute. In this new act, it is now the 90s which is a jump of 20 years into the future and becomes a different movie in many ways. It goes from being a musical to a drama with totally different actors playing the older versions of just the main characters. The look of the movie is also very different stripping away all the nostalgia glamour and shine from the look of the movie.


In addition, the movie throws away all of the unnecessary characters. By this I mean we say good bye to the pretense that the actual real members of Twin Folio are important. The movie does not even bother to cast their older versions. We only have 5 seconds of seeing their backs. The movie then becomes about the fictional third band member, his ex-girlfriend 20 years in the past, and their composer best friend.

While the first 3 acts in the 70s have a lot of period folksy charm and the love story is cute, I could not really get a handle on what was the point of everything. It seemed like the story lacked a drive that made it feel somewhat directionless.

Is the only point of the movie is to have a cute love story in a nostalgic past?

That in itself is not terrible. However, I felt more drive with “Mama Mia” which is essentially period nostalgia fluff to its core.



I came to the conclusion that C'est si bon” (2015) was holding back which is a serious mistake. The fourth act was the point of the movie. It was the heart of the story. It is about the aftermath of the past love, tragedy, and how mature adults deal with finding forgiveness and forgiving oneself. Viewed from the 4th act, the other 3 acts are essentially back story for this story.

I to be frank, I really liked the 4th act compared to the rest I just liked.
It was really heartbreaking.
I wished we got more of this story.

In many ways, the 4th act is in stark contrast with how we feel about the past viewed through rosy tinted glasses as it is how we feel about the present. Thus the 4th act looks gloomier and is not filled with music. There is a strong melancholic aspect to this part of the movie.


I liked the drama focused aspect and the more serious self-reflective melancholia aspect of the 4th act. Also, the actors in this part of the movie are all in their 50s at this point and you can really see them out act their 20s counterparts who are not even bad at all. Veteran actors Kim Hee-Ae and Kim Yun-Seok provide great performances.

When watching the 4th act, you have to ask the question why the movie is structure like this. For this type of movie that straddles the past, 70s, the lessor past, 90s, its structure is very linier. In better quality screenplays, you usually do not have the two time periods insulated from each other in this uneven manner.

It would be much better if the content in the 4th act was spliced into the earlier acts as framing devices that would lead into the climax. By doing so, the movie would have more of a focus since , now, essentially the first 3 acts of the 4 act movie is just back story for the 4th act.

Even in Korean movies, there are the examples of this being done currently including “Introduction to Architecture” (2012). If I think about it, many of the music movies follow this structure in order to deal with their inherent nostalgia aspect. Thinking back, movies such as “Eddie and the Cruisers” (1983) had a similar subject matter as C'est si bon” (2015) but the better story structure.


An explanation for this simplistic structure is that I think the writer was holding back too much for the sake of the little mystery that straddles the gap between the 3rd and 4th acts.

And yes there is a mystery!

However it does not have anything to do with the most of the first 3 acts. It is not a mystery about why the love birds broke up. That is more practical and straightforward. It has more to do with the fate of the band which I personally did not care much about since the band was never really developed as a subject matter in the movie.

What I’m saying is that the mystery is not interesting enough to hinge the movie on.  I think that holding back so much for the sake of this mystery was a mistake since the mystery itself is not the interesting aspect but how the characters react to it is the interesting point. You could have let the audience on to it early on considering and it would have been far better.



Concluding
What is with music movies?

The music movie genre always seem to cover the 50~80s a lot. It is undeniably intertwined with nostalgia and our perception of our youth. And  C'est si bon” (2015) attempts to latched on to that element of reconciling one’s youth with one’s present. However, the execution is uneven and prevents the movie from being great.

 C'est si bon(2015) is a cute, entertaining simply story for the most part set in the nostalgic past with music of the time period constantly playing. And it is nice but meaningless through most of it until the movie enters the 4th act. And I really really like the 4th act.



If I was going to judge the movie on its first 3 acts, I would have just given it a pleasant B grade and moved on. However, the 4th act really made me ponder even giving it an A- grade. However, the structure of the screenplay is not sophisticated enough for the story that the movie really wants to tell. This makes the movie waste too much time in the nostalgic past without any real direction. Thus, I have to painfully give it a B+.

The movie could have been great but ends up short!


Score:  B+ or 7.5/10

C'est si bon 쎄시봉(2015) OST





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