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TIFF Capsule Review: ‘The Secret Disco Revolution’

TIFF Capsule Review: 'The Secret Disco Revolution'

Dead as disco – the term is a statement that a trend was over, and deserved to be. Yet disco memories are alive enough to inspire “The Secret Disco Revolution,” which exhumes the music and style from dance records of the 1970’s and follows the genre’s short life up to the “Disco Sucks” gathering at Comiskey Park in Chicago in 1979 that blew up disco records. The archival vault is huge, full of music and footage. Now there’s also plenty of academic research on the phenomenon. It’s all there in Jamie Kastner’s documentary. Disco is traced to the Swing Kids, who were Germans expressing their opposition to the Nazis by dancing to jazz. That’s a stretch. But it’s credible, as we’re told, that Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You, Baby,” was “the musical expression of the feminist critique of three-minute sex,” and that the gay following for disco represented “a psychic intifada against the rules against gay men before gay liberation.” Are they kidding about the politics? Absolutely not. But the documentary’s pseudo-serious narration can seem as campy as the Village People, who spend a chunk of the film insisting that there was nothing gay about their music. Their producer, who paid them, assures us that there certainly was. “The Secret Disco Revolution” is the doc that disco deserves – rigorous, critical and entertaining. Disco died – not because of AIDS or drugs or decadence – but because it stopped making money at rates that the record companies demanded, because people stopped listening. You probably won’t leave this film singing any of the songs. But back in the day, even Ethel Merman made a disco record. Criticwire grade: A [David D’Arcy]

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