LINDA LINDA LINDA (drama, a pick of Japanese Film Festival 2007)
Cast: Doona Bae, Aki Maeda, Yu Kashii and Shiori Sekine
Director: Nobuhiro Yamashita
Time: 114 mins
Rating: * * 1/2 (out of 4)
WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL? "Linda Linda Linda" is one of eight selected movies for this year's Japanese Film Festival and it offers viewers a chance to join a bevy of high school girls as they prepare to celebrate the school's annual rock festival. Yes, basically, what you get is a slice of student life observed from the point of view of three Japanese girls and a Korean exchange student.
WHAT'S IT ABOUT? It is time for the annual school funfair and rock festival but band members Kei (Yu Kashii), Kyoko (Aki Maeda) and Nozomi (Shiori Sekine) find themselves in a fix. Their guitarist has broken her finger in a basketball game and their vocalist quits in a huff. With just three days before their performance, they need to find alternative songs to play, and a singer. While rummaging through a box of old cassettes, they come across an old hit, 'Linda Linda Linda' by the Blue Hearts, and decide to do a cover version of it. For their vocalist, they turn to Son (Doona Bae), a Korean exchange student who is trying hard to fit into the school crowd.What follows are practice sessions, encounters with boyfriends and teachers, and more rehearsals.
HIGHS & LOWS: There is no plot or teenage scandals the likes of which you find in Hollywood films like "American Pie" and "High School Musical". Camerawork in this 2005 effort by Nobuhiro Yamashita is sluggish and awkward at times - and so is the story development. However, Yamashita manages to capture the tone and ambience of high school life in Japan to share with us.
We get a few laughs along the way, especially from Son's muddled attempts at communicating in Japanese and a scene in which she has to confront an ardent but shy admirer. Indeed, the quiet and lanky Doona Bae is the most watchable of the cast - and we warm up to her easily. The others are pretty solid too, with each providing a realistic performance as individuals. Clocking in at nearly two hours, the movie is rather slow and tedious but not boring. There is a number of superfluous scenes that could have been discarded for a more compact and engaging story. Obviously, Yamashita is not bothered about the commercial viability of the movie, opting for the art house crowd instead. He does not exploit his cast of pretty girls for eye candy scenes or even riotous romantic comedy. The movie is simply about the band's yearning to put up a good show - and the payoff comes when we see them doing 'Linda Linda Linda' on stage.
THE LOWDOWN: Yes, when we see the band strut its stuff, we are wont to applaud and tap our feet. It makes us forget the slow build-up we had to tolerate earlier.