Judge Brett Cullum talked about it, talked about it, talked about it, talked about it.
Won't you take me to Funkytown?
The Limelight in Montreal was one of North America's hottest discos of the 1970s, and it rivaled New York counterpart Studio 54 for famous patrons and "of the moment" party atmosphere. There was a time when disco ruled the world, and it was one where Montreal was the biggest city in Canada. But by the time the Limelight closed shop, disco was over and the city became second fiddle to Toronto in both size and its music scene. Director Daniel Roby and screenwriter Steve Galluccio have set out to make a fictionalized account of the grand disco of the era, renaming it the Starlight and loosely basing some characters on real life figures. The film tries to be Boogie Nights in its scope and 54 in its disco slickness, but it feels like bargain versions of both these films.
The story follows several characters as they move from 1976 to 1979 through the height of disco and the Montreal scene. There is the deejay and television dance show host (Patrick Huard, Starbuck), the young, about-to-be-married disco dancer (Justin Chatwin, War of the Worlds), and the aging model (Sarah Mutch, a real life cover girl and super model) looking for her big singing break to get her out from in front of the cameras. There is also a desperate record producer, a gay gossip columnist, and a New York talent scout all looking for the next big things. They all find it, but they also find out that everything has a price. Drugs, dance music, and lots of sex lead to death and violence—as any ex-disco-bunny knows.
There are a couple of main problems that keep Funkytown from living up to what is an interesting premise. First up, all of the music is rerecorded versions and not the glorious originals that would have helped make this one feel more authentic. I'm not sure why they couldn't spring for the music rights, but obviously money held them back. Secondly, there are so many plots that the film takes far too long to resolve and reach a suitable conclusion. It seems over-stuffed and overly long by at least twenty minutes. It gets bogged down by its own drama, and just can't quite decide where it wants to go. Also it botches some major timelines with the music, buildings from skylines, and even misses the start of the AIDS crisis by moving it up several years. The attention to detail is sometimes lacking, although I admit that it certainly felt like the period.
The DVD presentation from Wolfe Video is bare bones. There's a nice standard def 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer here which does a great job with the golden-toned cinematography. The picture is vibrant and there are no digital artifacts to deal with. The Dolby 5.1 Surround track is fine, though it often settles for simple stereo during most of the club scenes. The only bonus feature is a trailer.
Funkytown is an interesting mix of Canadian cultural history, sex, drugs, and disco. It certainly has the right feel for the '70s, full of debauchery and amazing night life, but is filled with historical inaccuracies and far too much plot to be the effective drama it wants to be. It's still an entertaining piece if you are looking for a film that likes disco and that culture. Just don't expect everything to jive completely with history and pray you can muddle through the plots. But it does sometimes have a good beat that you can dance to.
Guilty of all the excess of the disco era and then some.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Wolfe Video
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