Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Linda Linda Linda

(Japan, 2005)

I had sort of mixed feelings about this one. It gets off to a slow start, but then you have to get used to that if you’re watching serious Japanese films. Apparently they don’t mind that over there; if they want instant action they go see Godzilla. An all-girl rock group at a Japanese high school lose their guitarist and then their singer, to a broken finger and “creative differences,” only a few days before the big festival where they’re going to perform. Rather haphazardly, they enlist a Korean exchange student to be their new singer. One problem: she barely speaks Japanese, she’ll have to learn the songs phonetically, and communication with the other girls can be difficult. They decide to cover a few tunes by a real J-punk band from the ‘80s called The Blue Hearts, including the song which is the film’s title. That’s pretty much the story.

You think it might be about loveable misfits winning the big prize at the end … but nothing’s really at stake here except a passion for music and for doing your best. The stereotype of Japanese is that they’re very polite, work very hard, and take things very seriously. All those traits are on display here. They work their butts off, work themselves to exhaustion, to the point of almost missing the concert altogether because they’ve all fallen asleep. In three days they go from pathetic, to pretty damn good. The Korean especially, Son, played by a wonderful, awkward, odd-eyed and intense actress named Du-na Bae, shows real star power. It’s just a wee bit like The Commitments, only it doesn’t chronicle the breakup but ends on a high note when the girls are well-received at the concert. Though the lyrics of the Linda song are pretty much incomprehensible, even in English translation (there must be some idiom in there we’re missing), the song really rocks! In the end the girls won me over, for their passion and dedication and love of the music.