Monday, December 7, 2009

Legends of Japanese Rock 'n' Roll Cinema: Linda Linda Linda

One of my all-time favorite films, this movie is about 4 high school girls who start a band so they can perform at the upcoming school festival. Linda Linda Linda (2005) is about nothing more and nothing less, yet it absolutely captures the energy, passion, and awkwardness of youth like no other film that I’ve seen.

The backdrop of the film is rural Japan, a world away from the clutter and intensity of Tokyo. High rises are replaced by greenery. The breakneck pace of Tokyo diminishes to the laidback atmosphere of the countryside. The girls are isolated and sheltered, with their only access to music through old cassette tapes and karaoke.

All four girls have their own charm and respective subplots, but the real star of the film is Song, the Korean foreign exchange student who is scouted on a whim by the other girls to be the lead singer. Song is played by Korean actress Bae Du-na, who has recently appeared in the Japanese film, Air Doll (2009). Her wide-eyed empty glare matched with her awkward Japanese is at once humorous and empathetic, painting a picture of a young girl an ocean away from home, but finally beginning to settle in and make friends.

Musically, the film is an homage to the power of music and the legendary bands of yesteryear. The film takes its title from the song that the girls learn to play, “Linda Linda Linda” by legendary Japanese punk band, the Blue Hearts. The girls first rendition of the song is awful, but by the time of their performance, they are able to make their Japanese pupils go wild. Also mixed in to the film are musical interludes featuring songs like “Vagabond” by Happy End [one of the great Japanese folk songs] and a musical score by James Iha, guitarist from the Smashing Pumpkins.

Linda Linda Linda is honest, subtle, and compelling. It stands true as one of my favorite Japanese films.

The final concert scene from the film:
A Western trailer with lame English translations:


Ethan said...

A little anecdote about this film... Last spring I met a woman who has worked at Toei Productions for four decades as a script doctor. Her career in film is very distinguished; she had worked on famous films throughout the years and was close with many of the great Japanese directors including Seijun Suzuki. When she asked me what Japanese films I liked, this was the first that came to mind. She was surprised. "What a wonderful film," she replied with a huge smile across her face.

supreme nothing said...

I think this really is my favorite film of all time, a masterpiece of quiet beauty interlaced with amazing music. I absolutely love it.

I'm always trying to encourage anybody who will listen to me to seek this film out, and it never fails to give me a warm feeling to see someone else out there give it some love. Thanks for this review!