Review: ‘Disco Revolution’ is far from music to your ears

In the documentary “The Secret Disco Revolution,” Canadian filmmaker Jamie Kastner positions the 1970s disco boom as being a clandestine vehicle for gay, female and racial liberation. Though this idea is not without a grounding in fact, the movie feels like a flakey, off-the-cuff blog post that somehow transmogrified itself into a feature-length documentary.

Occasionally charming but mostly just slight, the film leans heavily on authors Alice Echols and Peter Shapiro, both of whom have written seriously about disco. A sequence in which Village People producer and lyricist Henri Belolo talks about the group being undeniably drawn from gay iconography and culture juxtaposed with members of the band downplaying their gay imagery feels more awkward and clumsy than insightful or provocative. The film also doesn’t properly acknowledge how what followed after disco’s commercial downfall — namely house music and hip-hop — led straight to many current styles. (The lush sci-fi glamour of the current Daft Punk album is a perfect example.)

Kastner’s ironically dramatic narration as in the comedy “Anchorman” along with his use of fictional segments to dramatize the idea of “the masterminds” behind disco, wear out their welcome fast. There is much to take seriously about disco — both in the swoon and swirl of the music itself and its social relevance and context — but Kastner’s attempts at levity undercut his own position. Consider “The Secret Disco Revolution” something of a failed coup, an attempt to rewrite, or at least reframe, history that simply falls short of its goal.

—Mark Olsen


“The Secret Disco Revolution.”

MPAA rating: None.

Running time: 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Playing: At the Laemmle Noho 7.


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