Nobody, but nobody, does pop music like the Japanese. They are simply the masters when it comes to smooth production, gorgeous song structure and soaring emotions. "go for it!" by Dreams Come True remains probably the greatest pop tune I've ever heard in my life.
At last year's Vancouver Film Festival we had to make some tough choices, and one film in particular that we only cut from our schedule with the heaviest of hearts was Linda Linda Linda, a seemingly frothy tale of four Japanese high school girls who form a punk band.
Fortunately, Linda Linda Linda received a DVD release sufficient to reach our neighborhood video shop, and Steph snagged it from the shelves last week.
And the cinematic tradition in Japan remains as solid as ever. Linda Linda Linda is as delightful as it is stripped-down. No tricks, no pandering, no over-statement or pretentious under-statement. Four extremely charming young ladies, a couple of unbelievably catchy punk-pop tunes and the never-failing drama of needing to deliver when the time comes. Along with the never-failing heart-warmth of friends helping each other get to that time.
There's a great moment in Linda Linda Linda -- the girls manage their first practice, and Kei, the "cool" one who's the ringleader of the crew, makes a complete hash of her guitar part. Nozomi shakes her head and laughs, "Kei, Kei, Kei... Terrible." And they all laugh and practice carries on.
We were watching Moonlighting this morning and Steph remarked how the thing about Dave and Maddie is that they make each other better people. Same holds true in this film. All four of the girls are immeasurably improved by each others' determination to help make their performance a success. Without giving away too much of the plot, the real story here is not about any one girl overcoming her problems (it's in fact debatable whether many problems are in fact overcome), but about the group lifting each other up in order to reach that moment, that time when delivery is required.
I suspect most of us are masters of avoiding that time. Of staying clear of the need to deliver. When I realise that such a moment is bearing down on me, my first reaction is always panic. I'm not ready. I've got a few things I need to get in order before I take care of that. I'll just put it off for today. Get to it soon. Real soon.
And yet, there's a part of me that seeks out such moments. That craves the inner knowledge, the discovery that comes from those moments where there's no more avoiding, no more getting things in order, no more real soon. When it's time to put up or shut up. I think one thing I've learned is that failing at such moments is never quite as world-ending as my fears whisper it will be. But then I've been blessed with friends just as warm and honest as Nozomi the bass player. And whenever I blow a line or miss an entrance, I can just recall that headshaking "Kei, Kei, Kei..."