Its difficult to champion objectivity when your buttons are pushed just right, like what Nobuhiro Yamashita’s 2005 Japanese rock film Linda Linda Linda did to me. Factor in girls and guitars and not all too shabby direction, you bet I’ll be talking about it for a significant amount of time.
An all-girl high school rock band loses their guitarist and singer to injury and infighting (respectively), and they badly need the personnel to perform in their school’s festival. They randomly pick Son, a Korean exchange student from the same school, who barely speaks Japanese. The usual band challenges aside, they pick songs from local punk icons The Blue Hearts to perform, and have only three days to practice.
In spite of the fascinating pop-culture referenced background of the film, two winners arise from this wonderful cinematic gem: Director Nobuhiro Yamashita has effectively infused contemplative, wide-angled storytelling to a film that would usually merit fast cuts, numerous overpowering subplots, and a rockstar-posing extravaganza. Given the simple formulaic plot turned out the be the film’s strength rather than its liability, since Yamashita helps the audience keep focus, and realize the characters’ passion, and a commitment to a common goal: rehearse their collective asses off so they could play some punk songs in school. Sure, you have little teen-movie paragraphs slip in, but I can’t point to anything off-putting. Add in a few minutes of sleep-deprived surreal dream scenes reminiscent of mild dose of David Lynch or Michael Gondry there, too.
Paran Maum (Korean for Blue Hearts) performing Owaranai Uta
Then there’s Son, or authentic Korean star Bae Du-Na, the initially reluctant singer of the band, who steals every frame of film she is composed into. She renders effortless deadpan comedy, from the infamous karaoke singing to an admirer’s awkward confession of teen-love.
Near-perfect casting for the rest of the band, too. Teen megastar Aki Maeda (Battle Royale) drums for Paran Maum (Korean for Blue Hearts), whose minute-or-so lonesome bedroom rehearsal critiqued for its sheer cuteness. Yu Kashii (Death Note) as the eye-catching keyboardist turned last-minute-guitarist as the irritable de facto leader. Lastly, Base Ball Bear’s (a real J-rock band) bassist Shiori Sekine, who adds that rockstar legitimacy to the group.
Undeniably, Yamashita’s Linda Linda Linda is an insanely catchy (like that darn title song), and refreshing take on the old and tired rock movie franchise.