Da Capo


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Da Capo
"Lovingly rendered, however, with songs that have a clear appeal for K-rock fans." | Photo: Courtesy of Glasgow Film Festival

Why are so many people drawn to pursue careers in music? it has always been a difficult way to make a living, and never more so than today. If, as they say, rock n' roll is sex, then most would-be stars are lucky to get as much as a quick snog round the back of the bike sheds. With this in mind, those endless feelgood films about teenagers pursuing their dream of being spotted by a talent scout or winning a competition come to seem a little shoddy - we all know how little it really means. Da Capo is something different. Not as bold and brash as some of those films, it won't necessarily win over their fans, but where it does succeed is in illuminating the love of music for its own sake which makes such a career compelling even if it never results in money or fame.

Tae-il, (Hong Isaac) has actually had a taste of success, but he's getting older now in a market dominated by pretty teenagers and is trying to move into a new part of the market at the same time as developing what he does as an artist. Seeking inspiration, he travels back to his old hometown and reconnects with former bandmate Ji-won (Jang Haeun), who lets him crash on her couch. She's now teaching music at the local middle school and she introduces him to a band formed by some of her students. Wide-eyed, rosy cheeked and not nearly as scary as they'd like to be, they play what band leader Deok-ho (Seo Young-jae) describes as a mixture of K-rock, grunge and numetal. They've got the speed and the growl down, but with tunes that owe a heavy debt to existing well known metal songs, they're still missing something. Convinced that they can come across as something more than kittens having a tantrum, Tae-il begins to mentor them, giving them a real chance of getting the attention they crave.

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Split between the story of the young band learning the ropes and that of Tae=il's attempts to revive his career, Da Capo sometimes struggles to keep its balance and doesn't always get the pacing right - young viewers, in particular, are likely to become frustrated by the slowness of the adult plotline, and the two stories often feel out of sync. It's lovingly rendered, however, with songs that have a clear appeal for K-rock fans. Both Hong and Jang are real life musicians and fans will enjoy performances that draw heavily on their musical skills, especially when the latter has a guitar duel with up-and-coming talent Yang Tae-hwan, who plays one of her pupils. They acquit themselves well on the acting front too, though with a focus on sensitivity and nuance when, in places, the film could do with a bit more oomph.

What comes across strongly here, perhaps because of those casting choices, is the way the characters feel about music itself, and although there's a hint of romance between the two leas, it's really their feelings for their craft which come first. This draws out something which both Korean and Japanese cinema do well but which is rarely seen in Western films these days: an evocation of that particular pleasure to be found in mastery of a craft or in doing a job to which one is completely committed. Music here is not just a means of expressing emotion or attempting to access a fantasy. It's part of the stuff of day to day life, as vital as food or speech, and there is magic to be found in the process of creating it together.

Reviewed on: 03 Apr 2021
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Da Capo packshot
A struggling songwriter reconnects with a former bandmate who is now teaching music.

Director: Shim Chan-yang

Writer: Shim Chan-yang

Starring: Hong Isaac, Jang Ha-eun

Year: 2020

Runtime: 98 minutes

Country: South Korea


Glasgow 2021

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