Linda Linda Linda is a great movie about the Redemptive Power of Rock ‘n’ Roll. This may sound like a contradiction — surely most films about RPRR are pap. But Linda Linda Linda is a wonderful combination of arthouse weirdness, raw energy, social commentary and Japanese schoolgirls. With ingredients like that, it’s no wonder the result is so much fun.
I had waited for years to see this film, and I didn’t even know it. Several years ago I was talking to Joanne about her Aunt Linda, when she suddenly started flailing her head around and singing “Linda Lin-daa! Linda Linda Lindaa-aah!” It was one of those strange life moments. When we’d both calmed down after this outburst, she explained that “Linda Linda” had been a popular song when she was living in Japan around 1990. It did sound pretty fun, and the “Linda Linda” refrain spent the next few years bouncing around in my head. Finally somebody made a film about it, and it played at a film festival here in Auckland in July, and Joanne took me to see it, and the circle was complete.
Linda Linda Linda is not really a plot-driven movie, but the plot is essentially this. Three days before they are due to play at their Japanese high school festival, a schoolgirl rock band splits up due to “creative differences”. In desperation, the band recruits a new singer. Unfortunately, she can’t really sing, or even speak Japanese (she’s a Korean exchange student)\. And just to add to the challenge, they decide to learn a new set of songs, by the classic Japanese pop-punk band The Blue Hearts, whose biggest hit was — you guessed it — or maybe you didn’t — but I’ll tell you anyway — “Linda Linda”.
Once this premise is laid out, you can tell exactly how the film is going to end. But until the RPRR finally kicks in, the film is all about the growing camaraderie between the band and their new singer, and the amusingly awkward relationships between them and their families, teachers and other students. There are lots of embarrassed silences and terse conversations that nonetheless convey a lot about the characters.
And then there’s the music, which sent me scurrying off to try to dig up some Blue Hearts recordings. Linda Lin-daa! Linda Linda Lindaa-aah!