Korean(?!!) Movie Review #6: Linda Linda Linda (2005)

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Starring (L-R): Aki Maeda (Kyoko), Yu Kashii (Kei), Shiori Sekine (Nozomi), and Bae Doo-na (Son). Written and directed by Nobuhiro Yamashita. In Japanese (and some Korean) with English subtitles. 115 minutes

As a (very) fledgling film reviewer, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to relying on other, more experienced reviewers for guidance sometimes. So, I’m really struggling with why they made so many glaring mistakes about Linda Linda Linda.

Add to that a number of pithy one-liners that there’s actually no evidence for, and especially the willful ignorance displayed in shoehorning coming-of-age narratives into the movie, then I’ll seriously be taking all “expert” movie reviews with a big grain of salt in the future.

Despite what you may read elsewhere then, the movie is about a high school girl band that has just lost its guitarist (Moe) and lead singer (Rinko) to a hand injury and argument respectively, and opens with remaining members Nozomi, Kyoko, and Kei having to decide if they will still perform at the end of the high school festival week in just three days. As you’ve already guessed, they do, choosing to sing the iconic 1987 punk-rock hit Linda Linda (and 2 other songs) by The Blue Hearts.

But keeping Nozomi on bass, Kyoko on drums, and moving Kei from keyboard to guitar, still leaves them short of a vocalist. On a whim, they invite Korean exchange student Son to fill Rinko’s place, despite her occasional difficulties with Japanese.

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Son gets asked 21 minutes into the movie, and the remaining 94 are about the band practicing (spoilers begin) over the next two days and nights, culminating in them performing on the day as planned, albeit much later and wetter than expected. Yes, that’s it. It’s not an underdog story, there’s no hint of fame and success once the performance is over, no big romances, nor are there any jealous rivals. There aren’t even any major dramas or even mild arguments between the four major characters either (spoilers end). Indeed, it’s probably the most minimalist plot you’ll ever encounter, no matter how much of a movie buff you are.

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While fans of director Nobuhiro Yamashita may appreciate this, his previous works likewise featuring “aimless youth with nothing better to do than walk or sit around”, it’s easy to appreciate why others might find it slow and ponderous. One reviewer understandably wrote it off as “incident-free pic [that] will induce sleep” for instance, while another quite plausibly claimed that there were points when he was watching the movie where he “would leave, prepare part of lunch, and return, to find that literally nothing had happened.”

What’s more, the English marketing for it was very misleading, Rob Humanick at Slant mentioning that the press notes for movie suggested “a foreign regurgitation of stale conventions from the American teenage flick,” and that it was “difficult to not expect something of a J-pop remake of Bring It On that substitute[d] an all-girl cover band for sexed-up cheerleaders.” Also, the US trailer suggested something much quicker and more comical than what audiences ultimately got:

In light of all that, I must concede that I’d probably be far less forgiving of the movie’s glacial pace if it was about high school boys rather than girls. But it takes much more than 18 year-old Japanese schoolgirls to get me to like a movie so much, and I’m sure other heterosexual male and lesbian reviewers likewise aren’t so shallow, let alone everyone else. Why, then, does the movie get almost universal praise?

One reason is Bae Doo-na. A long-time fan, I can’t be objective about her myself, so consider Tom Mes’s description of her performance at Midnight Eye instead, which is quite representative of the accolades she has received:

…[a] major factor to the film’s success is the casting of Korean actress Bae Du-Na in the role of Son. Several years older than her teenage co-stars [26 in 2005] and more accustomed to mature roles in the likes of Park Chan-Wook’s Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Hyeon Nam-Seob’s Saving My Hubby, Bae easily outshines the rest of the cast.

Or, as G. Allen Johnson of the San Fransisco Chronicle put it:

Not conventionally beautiful, with gamin-like features and a seemingly permanent mope, Bae is the Christina Ricci of South Korea, with a similar ability to inform a simple character with many layers, most notably in the Korean gem Take Care of my Cat. That makes her a perfect fit for the minimalist milieu of director Nobuhiro Yamashita…

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I beg to differ on her not being “conventionally beautiful”: mirroring her acting abilities, a quick Google image search reveals she can be as feminine or as androgynous as her role requires, but let’s not go there. Rather, that “seemingly permanent mope” is a good way to describe Son’s social awkwardness as both an exchange student and — I suspect — a natural geek, and through conveying this so well she ironically makes a far more convincing teenager than her real-life teenage co-stars (although to be fair, their characters didn’t call for it).

With such a focus on her though, it’s surprising that Johnson would write that “Son can barely speak a word of Japanese, let alone sing it”. This is simply not true: while she does sometimes struggle with her words, or needs people to repeat themselves, she never has any real difficulties communicating. Nevertheless, Johnson’s assertion is echoed by virtually every other reviewer, which leaves me wondering if there were some mistakes in translations, and/or if there are other versions out there? Humanick at Slant, for example, mentions that the funniest scene in the movie is when Son attempts “to overcome her language difficulties in a restaurant where only paying customers are allowed to use the restrooms”, something which is strangely lacking in the file I downloaded (which, as always, I’ve watched twice).

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Another potential misunderstanding is that, unless you’re familiar with either Korean or Japanese, it’s not always clear which language Son is speaking (Korean was only indicated by brackets in the version I watched). This becomes relevant (spoilers begin, including image below) when she sings by herself in a karaoke room, revealing her to be much more confident in her native Korean, and especially in a later scene (see here for a video) when Son is approached by long-time secret admirer Yusaka (nickname Makki) to confess his love for her. When you realize that he does so in halting Korean (which even astute reviewers like Didion at Feminéma missed, and Johnson of the San Fransisco Chronicle mistook as poetry), then you can’t help but feel much sorrier for the guy when Son quickly rejects him, especially if you’ve ever had your weeks of unrequited love and wooing preparations dismissed in an instant yourself.

Because of that, I was much less sympathetic to the spin Alyx Veseyputs on Son’s reaction over at Feminist Music Geek:

The rest of the girls look through the window of an abandoned classroom, watching their lead singer choose the band, and her friends, over some guy who happens to like her but that she doesn’t know.

I don’t mean to single out Alyx, who otherwise writes an excellent review. It’s just that it points to the tendency of many other reviewers and commenters to overstress the female homosocial elements of this movie. In the New York Times for instance, Jeannette Catsoulis is so gushing about how “the film’s sweet, slow rhythms bind them together” that you can be forgiven for thinking that they don’t think about boys at all. Admittedly, Catsoulis is clearly pressed for space, but still: the reality is that not only is Son very inquisitive about Kei’s history with Yomoki, her ex, but Kyoko’s attention is just as much on her own crush Kazuya as on her band-mates. And indeed it’s precisely that which the four of them talk about — and bond over — during their last communal meal (spoilers end).

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But don’t get me wrong: I am definitely not saying that the boys in the movie should be given more attention, that it’s in any way about them, or that the movie’s main focus isn’t indeed about high-school girls bonding. After all, that last is the second reason the movie has received such high praise, especially from, naturally enough, women.

This presents an interesting question however, which I’d like to pose to female readers: just how genuine are the situations and the dialogue? I ask because following Jane Austen’s example, who never has two male characters talking alone to each other in any of her novels, I’d be very hesitant to ever do the same with female ones (something to consider with — but not apologize for — male-written and/or directed movies that fail the Bechdel Test). If they ring true though, then male director Yamashita, and crucially also writer, somehow has really hit the spot.

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A related question is raised by Burl Burlingame’s review at Honolulu Star Bulletin, which opens with:

I have a friend who used to play in an all-girls punk band. She said rehearsals took forever because they’d play one song, talk about their feelings for an hour, play one song, talk about their feelings for an hour … which pretty much describes Linda, Linda, Linda, Nobuhiro Yamashita’s slacker success story about girls who form a band for a high-school talent show.

Taken out of context, I would have condemned Burlingame for perpetuating gender stereotypes, but now I’m not so sure. What do any female musicians amongst you make of it?

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Either way, I can understand all the one-liners on grrrl-power bonding then, but can’t overlook the blinders some of the reviewers seemed to have on. Humanick at Slant, for instance, describes the movie as “an emotionally attuned look at adolescent life amid the invisible social structures of high school with an underlying emphasis on gender and cultural barriers to boot, all surprisingly free of manipulation”, but I’m at a complete loss as to what those barriers are myself. Likewise, Catsoulis asserts in the New York Times (yes — she’s an easy target) that “the irritations and tedium of high school life are staged with refreshing simplicity”, whereas in reality these are glaring for their absence, the unregimented nature of their school life greatly puzzling me until I realized that the movie began already well into the school’s festival week.

(Update — I forgot to mention that one minor flaw in the movie is that it would have been unlikely for Son to have bonded so well the other band members in just over two days; starting the movie a couple of weeks earlier, giving a more realistic time-frame for this, would surely have required only minimal plot and technical changes)

It also puzzled Alyx at Feminist Music Geek, who wrote:

I’m also not entirely clear about the nature of Japanese schools. I came through an underfunded, less-than-superlative Texas public school system. Thus, Paran Maum’s school seems like a tony liberal arts magnate where teenagers are given considerable support and resources for their artistic inclinations, thus implying that the students come from respectable middle- to upper-middle-class families. But I’m not sure if this high school is exceptional in Japan….while I initially feel the need to mention the classed dimensions of privilege that allow the girls the fine arts education and leisure time to form a band (instead of, say, take jobs or quit school to support their families), I don’t want to suggest that what I see as an American viewer is in accord with Japan’s classed realities.

Whether this surprising freedom the girls have is the norm or just for the duration of festival week however, that they behave more like they’re in university than high school is crucial for the movie’s last major source of appeal: the ability to project coming-of-age narratives onto it (spoilers begin).

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As I stated in the introduction, I actually think this is quite misguided: the girls (re)form a band, they practice, they perform, the end. Where’s the coming of age drama in that? But I can empathize (spoilers end). Given how free the girls are to do things under their own initiative, to set their own hours, and to come and go between activities as they please, things utterly denied to most Japanese (and Korean) teenagers, it’s difficult not to see them as near-adults. In particular, although Nozomi’s background is woefully underexplored (you know no more about her by the end of the movie than at the beginning), Kei above seems to to have had quite a history with — and lingering feelings for — much older ex Yomoki below, yet stoically accepts that he’ll be moving on to Tokyo (personally, it wasn’t until I was much older that I realized life was like that).

Combine that with being the de facto leader of the group, and things like getting the band, sans permission from parents or teachers, halfway across town to get some extra practice at Yokomi’s studio, then in short she seems much more capable and assured than your average 18 year-old.

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Mention must also be made of ThrownMuse’s comment here (difficult to find on the site; look for the 6 June 2007 entry) that “the movie has a very subtle feminist and punk-rock aesthetic that I don’t think every viewer picks up on”. Which would include me, and, again, it’s annoying that it’s not elaborated on. But perhaps Alyx of Feminist Music Geek fills the gap:

I do find the girls’ fandom of The Blue Hearts, whose songs they cover, to be quite interesting. For one, girls identifying with a fast, hard-rocking all-male rock band, while at no time talking about how cute certain members are, seems to suggest a wider range of possibilities for who can influence a girl. The band even goes so far as to call themselves Paran Maum, which is “blue hearts” in Korean (an indication of Son’s importance to the band). There’s a lot of talk on this blog about the importance of women and girls influencing one another in popular music. However, we shouldn’t short shrift what it means for girls finding their sound and voice through boys and men or ignore the progressive and possibly queer potential in girls identifying with boys. Like Patti Smith, PJ Harvey, and Sleater-Kinney before them, these girls don’t plug in and rock out to be with the band — they are the band and want to thrash just as hard as the boys.

I find any queer potential here a little forced though, both because of the characters’ random choice of the band in the movie and the mundane reason Yamashita chose to use it, as he explained below in a Cinema Strikes Back interview. But I’d be happy to be persuaded otherwise:

CSB: Was Linda Linda Linda always the main song or were there other possibilities you considered?

Nobuhiro Yamashita: Linda Linda Linda is such an iconic song done by the Blue Hearts. Everybody knows it. When you hear the Blue Hearts, it’s the song that first comes to peoples’ minds. It was always the first choice for the main song we were going to use. (With respect to) other songs (in the film), we did have many choices we had to go through.

Finally, no matter how cliched, I’d be lying if didn’t admit that the music didn’t immediately remind of me of some scenes from Kill Bill Volume 1, most notably the 5.6.7.8′s in “The House of Blue Leaves” nightclub:

Even if — ahem — it turns that they don’t actually sing any Japanese songs in the movie, I’m definitely more curious about Japanese rock now (it helps that I’m also heavily into retro-themed Japanese artwork like this too {source}, but which I could obviously never put up on a Korea-related blog). And perhaps you too, for nobody watching can’t help but sing along to Linda Linda by the end of the movie.

And on that note, this music video isn’t from the movie, so don’t worry about spoilers. Sing away!^^

The original Blue Hearts song for comparison:

24 thoughts on “Korean(?!!) Movie Review #6: Linda Linda Linda (2005)

  1. “Taken out of context, I would have condemned Burlingame for perpetuating gender stereotypes, but now I’m not so sure. ”

    Isn’t this the case for all fledling rock bands, though, all-female or otherwise? A social setting, first and foremost.

    Haven’t seen this movie, but intrigued. Will watch.

    • Sorry, but I don’t understand your comment, or think you misunderstood mine. In case it’s the latter (no offense), it’s not about the social setting at all: I meant that Burlingame gives the impression that it’s normal for girl bands to “play one song, talk about their feelings for an hour, play one song, talk about their feelings for an hour” and so on, which all sounds very stereotypically girly, and something I can’t imagine male bands doing. Like I asked in the post, I wonder how true it is (not that it’s necessarily a bad thing if it is, although the statement by itself could be taken as trivializing “less-dedicated” girl bands).

  2. Two of my favorites scenes in the movie always make me think about how effectively space was used.
    Early in the movie, the remaining band members are trying to figure out what songs to play. They hang out in what looks like the music room of the school, a space for practice as well as for listening to music. Rummaging through old cassettes, they find one with some interesting songs that both Nozomi and Kyoko know but Kei doesn’t. When Kei plays the tape, they realize that it had been mislabeled and they end up singing along to the Blue Hearts’ “Linda Linda.”
    I like that space a lot, with its posters and boxes of tapes in the cabinets. I imagine countless students have spent time in there, enjoying music and avoiding doing what they have to do — studying. Also, if there weren’t a room like containing with a box of old tapes, they would have never decided on the Blue Hearts. The (school’s) past helps out the present.

    Another good use of space is the scene where Son agrees to join the band. The current and former band members are talking with Kei with the former band member, Rinko, when Son appears in the background, walking down a flight of steps. Trying to show up Rinko, Kei asks Son to join the band from a distance. Son of course does what just about anyone who doesn’t speak the language like a native does — she says “hai” without knowing what exactly she has agreed to. As Kei and Rinko continue to argue, we can see Son in the background, trying to figure out exactly just what she’s gotten herself into. The payoff is worth a laugh as Kyoko runs up the stairs to explain to Son that she’s now the lead vocals. “Eh?! Muri! Muri!” (“What? No way! Impossible!”) Keeping the sequence with the band members in the foreground and Son in the background conveys the situation nicely; Son is not a member of the group. Yet. And it also helps sell the laugh because Son’s body language is so funny.

    Think of also why Son is coming down the stairs. She was working in the Korean-Japanese room with the beef darts game. Nobody except the Korean language teacher was in that room. Son didn’t seem to have any friends at the school, so she was isolated in there. (The little girl who reads comic-books with her even mentions this.) Once she gets out of that room, she gets a chance to join the rest of the school. She can become a part of the festival. Look at the way Son acts when she isn’t in that Korean-Japanese room. Walking by the empty stalls late at night, she imitates all the hawkers and their sales pitches. Getting on the empty stage, she imagines herself introducing her band to her audience. The least interesting place for her in the school is the room she was supposed to be in.

    • I’m embarrassed to say – and it’s a little ironic! – that I didn’t think of looking for blog reviews on Linda Linda Linda at all while writing my own (I found Feminéma and Feminist Music Geek accidentally via image searches), so thanks very much for passing on that link to your own (click on “itchy008″ everybody!), which I also enjoyed.

      I especially like the way you discuss spaces: it’s entirely a new perspective for me. In particular, while I did notice how isolated Son seemed to be of course, if I’d ever have mentioned that in the review I would have only done so to criticize what Tom Mes wrote about her in Midnight Eye:

      [Bae Doo-na's] presence is undoubtedly a product of the so-called ‘Kanryu boom’, the feverish interest in Korean pop culture that has been sweeping Japan for quite some time now – roughly since the 2002 Football World Cup was co-hosted by both countries – which has seen Korean soap operas, films and pop music become a serious threat to the market shares of homegrown product and made film and TV stars from across the Korea Strait household names.

      One pleasant side effect of this otherwise superficial trend is that the age-old prejudice against Korean minorities is on the wane. No particular explanation is given for the fact that Song is Korean, it is simply an accepted fact. Instead of deflecting racism, she has to fight off the suitors, one of whom even memorises a few lines of Hangul hoping to impress her. That Bae Du-Na was cast in the role only serves to underline this point. It would have been much easier for a Japanese actress to learn what little Korean the character speaks than for Bae to speak and sing Japanese. Obviously there is a commercial factor at work here, but the producers could hardly be accused of taking the easy route.

      Of course, all that is not necessarily incorrect – certainly the other band members take to Son very quickly. But on the other hand there was precious little of that “feverish interest” by the rest of the school in her “Korea-Japan Friendship Event” (or whatever it was called), and we’re given the strong impression that she doesn’t have many (or even any) Japanese friends before she meets the band…maybe I’m just overanalyzing, and this is hardly the most egregious example of course, but at the time it just seemed like yet another convenient narrative being shoehorned into the movie.

  3. I was nodding my head when I read about your complaint of reviewers seeing things that weren’t there in the film. Coming of Age? Makki reciting poetry to woo Son? “subtle feminist and punk-rock aesthetics”? We all tend to see what we want to see but, c’mon, folks, it’s gotta be in the film!

    Comparing “Linda, Linda, Linda” to similar American films is useful to see what Yamashita and company were not interested in dealing with — the desire to win a competition, the discovery of extraordinary talent, overcoming seemingly impossible odds, proving a point about empowerment…. The band was supposed to be part of a concert at the festival. And the remaining members try hard to get it right with the limited amount of time they have. That’s it.

    The film does show the school in an idealized way. The students seem to have the run of the place during the festival. (I love the comic book cafe on the roof.) We only see the kids interact with two students and one of them does his best to let the kids alone so they figure out what to do. That is not what Japanese high schools are about.

    By the way, have you seen “Air Doll”? Bae Doo-Na is even more the outsider in that one.

    • All agreed :)

      I just finished Air Doll last night. Whereas with Linda Linda Linda, I had to turn to other reviewers for ideas about what to write, this time I need other reviewers just to figure out what the hell was going on in it…

      Either way, it wasn’t really my kind of movie, and after two Japanese movies with minimal plots in a row then I resolved to definitely cover a conventional (and Korean!) one next time. By coincidence, Girl Scout (2008) was on TV yesterday, which looked like an interesting possibility (I’ve been a fan of Kim Seon-a ever since My Name is Kim Sam-soon), but it looks like it’ll be difficult to find a copy online.

  4. I’m so glad to see you mention/review Linda Linda Linda!

    When people complain about the slow pace, I don’t really get it. To me, the movie is much more a nostalgic look back than an in-the-moment rush. That’s why it’s so slow, and that’s perhaps why school life is so idealized, and why it seems the girls become better friends than you would expect: it’s a movie about the memory of the event, rather than the event itself.

    I do agree with you about the Japanese/Korean confusion, too. The version I watched did NOTHING to indicate the difference; I could tell because I’m passingly familiar with Korean and not at all with Japanese. I guess the distributors figured their target market would be able to tell the difference, one way or another?

    Here’s the review I wrote immediately after watching it:

    http://kobarea.blogspot.kr/2011/05/jk-crossover-movies-part-1-of.html

    • You’re welcome, and you have a point about the idealization: “it’s a movie about the memory of the event, rather than the event itself” is a good way to put it. Still, although I make many more allowances for that sort of thing as I get older and/or especially the more movie styles I’m familiar with, I get annoyed when I need to suspend my disbelief unnecessarily. So, I can forgive the unrealistic freedom the girls have at school for instance, but not that everything happens in just 2 days, as (like I say in the post) it would have required very little effort to make it a more realistic 2 weeks instead.

      I’m not saying that because I think you disagree necessarily(?)…I guess I’m just saying Yamashita was perhaps a little lazy. In contrast, I’m much more forgiving of Hirokazu Koreeda for instance, who directed Air Doll, because that movie’s simply unwatchable if you don’t completely suspend your disbelief within the first 5 minutes!

  5. I don’t really disagree or agree…I guess that was something that never registered while I was watching it: “Gee, this is happening over two days! What the hell?” I think my brain honestly didn’t even register that it was only taking place over such a short time span. But yeah, making it happen over, say, two weeks certainly wouldn’t have hurt the movie any, either.

    • It’s important that the events are rushed and compressed into two days instead of two weeks. The story hinges on the preciousness of time. If they had two weeks, they wouldn’t have had the freedom to get things done on their own. School festivals last a weekend so they can run around and practice as much as they want during that time. With two weeks, classes and clubs would have gotten in the way.

      With only two days, they had to sneak into the school at night to practice. They had to find another place to practice. They had to go without much sleep. Given two days of being around each other for much of the time, the bonding experience becomes much more intense, more memorable.

      • We’ll have to agree to disagree. I think they’d have bonded just as intensely, been just as sleepy, and had just as many problems finding places if they’d been practicing every night after school for two weeks (and which is still a relatively short period of time). Also, even though classes were technically still going on, every high school I attended (and I went to six in three countries!) made a lot of allowances for students preparing for various important events and so on (although of course I never went to a Japanese one, and don’t dispute that a festival may indeed be a week long for the reason you mention). Finally, I can only speak for myself of course, but just because of the math at high school I bonded with people more and have much more memorable experiences of events etc. that lasted close to a week or longer than those that were only two days or so, even though I was with both my classmates and new people 24/7 in the latter.

  6. I liked the movie! Here are a few things that an American viewer should know to get a bit more out of it.

    Cultural Festival or Bunkasai.
    This is an annual event, held around Nov 3 (National Culture Day). This event is part of the national school curriculum for all grades and participation is mandatory. Usually the school will hold the event for two or three days on the weekend. As much as possible the students are in charge. High schools in Japan are not free, not even the public ones. The school tests are standardized and published so the academic performance of any school is known. The event gives an opportunity for prospective parents, who will have to pay at least some of the cost of tuition, a chance to see the schools up close, so that they can evaluate them on non-academic matters. The school administrators want to show a school with strong successful clubs and happy children. The parent shopping for a school isn’t a direct part of the film’s plot, I mention it because it provides an explanation for the latitude shown some of the characters.

    Consensus is a Japanese cultural norm, and direct conflict is to be avoided.
    Kei is made leader of the reformed band by Nozomi and Kyoko. Watch for their body language and eye contact when Kei and Rinko meet. The other thing to look for is the frustration that the various characters have when they are socially unable to tell someone directly what to do.

    The supporting cast
    Is wonderful. The pace of the film may slower than you expected, but the supporting roles are rich in detail. I really liked how well the ex boyfriend and Kei interact.

  7. I happened to have seen this about three months, with “M” who is from a similar “rural” area in the Kansai region skirting an urban area that (if I recall correctly) this school is meant to portray.

    While some viewers might find this movie slow-going, “M” thought it captured the mood and the nostalgia of the preparation and culmination of the “high school festival.” I think viewers in Korea (and I suspect Taiwan and some others) where a similar tradition exists/ed might “get it” in a way that a Western audience might not if they don’t grasp the significance of the “high school festival.” It was very important for “M” to make sure that I got it what the “high school festival” was all about, emphasizing that if I didn’t get it, the movie wouldn’t make sense.

    As I read your review and your critique of other reviewers, that’s what was going through my head. I had not seen any Western marketing for this film, and from your description, it sounds almost like marketing malpractice. The unhurried pace of many Japanese (and Korean) movies doesn’t lend itself well to hyped up trailers that bring unreasonable expectations.

    • I agree. I saw this film when I was at Japanese language school, and I really enjoyed it. There are a lot of movies in Japan, many of which are comedies, about trying hard to do something as a group and making friends at the end of high school. Water Boys and Swing Girls are similar in that respect, though both are more comedic than Linda Linda Linda. There’s also Hula Girls, which is based on the true story of the first dancers at the Hawaiian Cultural Center in Fukushima–this one is more like October Sky, but with girls becoming hula dancers in a mining town instead of boys learning about rockets in a mining town.

      I can’t really put a finger on what I like about Linda Linda Linda, though. Perhaps that it, like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki’s Delivery Service, is mainly slice-of-life with some conflicts and some coming of age, but nothing terribly epic and nothing terribly romantic. I feel it’s more true to life for teenagers in Japan than something like High School Musical is for teens in the US, and it offers realistic and alternative femininities to what the pop idols give. Plus, it introduced me to The Blue Hearts, and I think the message about cultural understanding was positive, though not over the top. As a foreigner in Japan, sometimes I get treated like I’m slow or childish because I can’t always express myself well in Japanese (despite 9 years of study, all post-high school). But the band’s acceptance of Son and subtle realization that she’s a girl just like them, with her own hopes and dreams and opinions, even if they don’t come out right in Japanese, made me happy.

  8. I was going to write a mini review about this movie so I searched for other reviews to link to. Yey found your blog!
    Anyway…I lol-ed hard on some of the reviews you linked to. Did they see the movie without subs? XD
    It’s difficult to review a Japanese movie after only watching one film. There is a risk of picking on the wrong things because there is little understanding of the culture. Oh and most Jfilms I’ve seen have slow paced narrative, simple storyline and melancholic feel. If you have time you can also check out ’100 million yen girl’, ‘Koizora’, ‘Naoko’ and the ultimate tear-jerker ’5cm per second’.

    • Thanks for the suggestions, although frankly I wouldn’t want to see them if they’re as slow-paced as this one is: the both glacial and very very loose narrative in Air Doll has put me off them permanently, and which is why I still haven’t reviewed it – erk – over 2 months after first watching it!

      • “Air Doll” is a rather atypical film for Hirokazu Kore’eda (though I happen to like it — and consider BAE Doo-na’s performance pretty remarkable). Two films by him you might like more — paced more like LLL — are “Nobody Knows” and “Still Walking”. Other rock-themed films you might find interesting are Nana (alas, its sequel Nana 2 isn’t as good), Solanin (based on a rather good manga) and Shonen merikkansu (Brass Knuckle Boys).

        BTW — I think LLL covers more than 2 days (though less than a full week).

        • Thanks, I’ll bear those recommendations in mind.

          p.s. Well, I did say it “opens with remaining members Nozomi, Kyoko, and Kei having to decide if they will still perform at the end of the high school festival week in just three days.”! :)

  9. I think they had a few days until the _start_ of the festival, and then the first couple of days of the festival, to get ready.

    Another great school festival film – Jun Ichikawa’s BuSu.

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