Linda Linda Linda [DVD]  [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
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Only three days before their high school festival, guitarist Kei (Yu Kashii), drummer Kyoko (Aki Maeda), and bassist Nozumi (Shiori Sekine) are forced to recruit a new lead vocalist for their band. They choose Korean exchange student Son (Bae Doo-Na), though her comprehension of Japanese is a bit rough! It's a race against time as the group struggles to learn three tunes for the festival's rock concert-including a classic '80s punk-pop song by the Japanese group The Blue Hearts called "Linda Linda"... Ex-Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha composed the instrumental tracks in "Linda Linda Linda".
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As much as I like groups such as Morning Musume (and what's NOT to like?) these girls, playing to a small school audience in their bare feet, sopping wet, were a knockout!
If only all feel-good movies were this good!
The naturalistic acting style lends the girls an air of melancholoy at times, but once they start playing it's as if a light somewhere is switched on. Utterly brilliant.
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What's it about? A Japanese high school girl group has a falling out with their lead singer about an incident that injures one of the other girls. There are hurt feelings all around. So the remaining girls decide to swap instruments and draft the local misfit (the stunningly talented super-model-turned actress Du-na Bae) Korean girl to sing lead.
Nothing turns out quite like you'd expect. There are wonderous small moments all tied together with the tour-de-force-of-nature that is Bae. The smaller characters are well defined, and you get a real sense of this world.
Captures the feeling of giddiness/stress that is performance better than virutally any movie I've seen in years. Do you love punk music? Do you love movies about misfits? Do you love films about finding your own place? THEN RUN and get this film. A real stunner.
The story is simple. As two girls recently left the group, three remaining members of the band Kyoko (Aki Maeda, "Battle Royale"), Kei (Yu Kashii) and Nozomi (Shiori Sekine) have to find a vocalist for the new band. They recruit a timid Korean exchange student Son (Du-na Bae, "The Host"), who, as it turns out, shows unexpected side of her character as she keeps practicing.
[SLOW-MOVING BUT TOUCHING] First, keep this in mind before watching "Linda Linda Linda" of which mood is something different from such films as, say, "School of Rock" or "Hard Day's Night" (both my favorite films). The catchy Blue Hearts songs are wonderful and the rock concert scenes are full of energy, but the greatness of director Nobuhiro Yamashita is that he not only succeeded in expressing the youthful energy of high school girls, but also cleverly suggesting that the girls are leaving behind their younger days though they themselves are not aware of it.
To fully enjoy "Linda Linda Linda," please remember these things. Annual high school festivals (usually called "bunka-sai" in Japanese) are usually held in autumn and the girls are in the third (and last) year of high school. That means this is their final chance to join in the bunka-sai of their school. Son will go back to her country and most probably they will not play together again. Yamashita inserts several episodes or images that imply the festival (or the sweet, joyful days of youth) is going to be over soon - the images of deserted schoolyard or one of the girl's ex-boyfriend leaving the town, for instance. Only grown-ups around the girls know this fact (listen carefully the words from the teacher), but the girls themselves do not seem to realize this, or even if they do, they don't understand the meaning of it ... until long after their youth is past.
The film deftly captures the atmosphere of high school festivals in Japan. I can assure you the authenticity of each scene of the film because I was once a high school student there. So much time and efforts are put into "bunka-sai": classrooms are turned into shops selling noodles, ice cream stand, rock music club or "haunted house." It is precious moment of life, which becomes part of bitter-sweet memories of youth only after you realize you have left it behind forever.
The acting is uniformly great, especially the brilliant performance from Du-na Bae as Son, who is to be seen in "The Host," a 2006 mega-hit in South Korea. In fact she might be a bit too old to play the role Son (Du-na Bae was about 25 years-old at the time of shooting), but her spontaneous and lively performance makes us forget that. The film is also benefited from the authentic location as it was shot in the real, now disused building of Maebashi Industrial High School in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, which had recently moved to another location.
"Linda Linda Linda" uses a slightly downbeat approach in telling the story, avoiding the cliched plot devices. It is sometimes slow-moving, but in moving slowly, it shows a realistic portrait of high school life in Japan. Wherever you are, you will see it is an amusing and touching film that captures the essence of youth.
As the film opens, Shiba High School is preparing for it's annual Holly Festival, classes are off and everyone is busy setting up noodle booths or practicing for the rock concert, or just hanging out. After a painful scene in which two "AV geeks" are filming a bored girl reading a paean to the these last days of freedom, as an intro to a documentary we'll see them shooting a few times through the film, we see one of the central characters, bandmember Kyoko, walking down a corridor between open classrooms looking for Kei, and immediately defining her character -- the idealized Japanese schoolgirl, energetic, social, perky, polite, the go-between and peacemaker. She first spots Nozomi, who suggests the practice room, then asks Moe about her broken finger; Moe apologizes she cannot play with the band.
This neatly sets up the basic theme -- Kei, Kyoko, Nozomi and Moe were going to play in the concert, but now have a problem. Kei, the acknowledged leader, decides they will play anyway, but who will replace singer-guitarist Moe? Poking through some old tapes, they find one by the 80's Japanese punk band The Blue Hearts, and decide to go for it. Kei will switch from keyboards to guitar, but they still need a vocalist. In a hilarious scene, sitting slacker-style on a wall, they decide to take the first person to come along. After a couple of false starts, along comes Son, the school's Korean exchange student, who readily agrees (and then is horrified when she finds out what she agreed to :-).
The rest of the film is in some sense formulaic -- the girls have three days to learn three songs and to mesh as a group. They persist through daunting obstacles, bonding with each other, and through energy and talent and some luck emerge triumphant at the finale. But it is extremely well-done formula, and there are many layers to add interest. Each of the prime four has a distinct character -- Kyoko, as described above; Kei, somewhat of a loner; Nozomi, somewhat withdrawn and maybe with less of a future than the others; and of course Son, delightfully played by Doona [Du-Na] Bae as a fish-out-of-water, a bit shell-shocked in her new environment, who finds friendship and emerges from her shell. We see bits of each of their family lives, which inform their individual characters. Kei's past relations are important -- the ex-boyfriend whose studio they use, the ex-best-friend and band co-founder Rinko that she is having a frosty fight with. The boys who are interested in Kyoko and Son. The whole carefully shown environment of a small Japanese city and high school.
Go and check out some clips from the Japanese version and spinoff album on youtube .. search for Paranmaum as well as Linda Linda Linda. And also search for bluehearts for the true original, and baseballbears to see Nozomi (Shiori Sekune) in her real-life band. Aki Maeda (Kyoko) also has some rather syrupy pop ballads.
One thing -- I seriously hope this has not been dubbed into English, as the technical info seems to indicate (or at least that the original soundtrack and subtitles are available as an alternate). Of course that would destroy the music, if that's dubbed, and switching back and forth between Japanese music and English dialogue would be too weird. But just in general, it would seem to take away the "listen and feel" of the film.
The themes that run throughout the film are more complex than the plot. Friendship, memories, love, the end of one era of one's life and the start of a new one.
Besides the culture tips and the Blue Hearts audio FAQ, there isn't much in the way of extras and that was a tad disappointing. VIZ did such a good job with Train Man and Kamikaze Girls.
But still worth getting for those who love Japanese culture, Japanese music or a good movie.
But I think that a lot of the reviews I've read here are going to mislead people.
LLL is NOT a "punk rock movie," though a great punky song is a large part of he plot. It is also NOT "lively" or "energetic" except in rare spurts. This is NOT a fast-moving pop flick along the lines of a Japanese John Hughes movie or the wacky "Kamakazie Girls."
This is an Art House flick all the way, and falls much more squarely in the Jim Jarmusch territory. It is deliberately paced, with fairly static camera work with a storytelling style that revels in the ordinary and every day. Lots of long, uneventful sequences that are sometimes capped by a subtly hilarious bit of Bae mugging.
That said, I do think it's a quality film, and I did like it. BUT it is not a "feel great" pop blowout as many are contending. Let me put it this way: If Sofia Coppola's "Lost in Translation" bored you, "Linda Linda Linda" will kill you.
But if you like small, slice of life films about regular people doing regular stuff, that have fine acting and are well made, this one is for you.