Moshi moshi. For a movie about rock and roll, this 2005 Japanese film-festival darling makes rebellion as demure as the tidy black bows on the schoolgirl uniforms of Kei (Yu Kashii) and her insta-bandmates. The three days they've got to prepare for a school festival seem to pass in real time, not at all like the fast-paced American-girl antics of Josie and the Pussycats or Freaky Friday. But if you settle into Nobuhiro Yamashita's languorous pace, there are rewards; you'll see why the young director (with four features since 1999) is frequently compared to Jim Jarmusch.
Sullen Kei informs her crew that the next girl to walk through the courtyard will be their new vocalist; enter Korean exchange student Son (Bae Du-na), who can't even sing. She agrees only because her Japanese vocabulary consists primarily of "Yes" and "It's OK." When the situation is explained to her, she's terrified but happy to have new friends. How to prepare for this new challenge? After school, she immediately heads to the nearest karaoke cubicle to practice.
All four of the main actresses look like real teenagers, and their nonverbal communication is delightfully accurate. There are innumerable pauses and loaded, hilarious stares passed among them. Rivals say "I hate you" with a well-timed aversion of the eyes. They slouch and brood while constantly texting on their highly decorated cell phones.
Such minimal dialogue leaves plenty of room for the unobtrusive indie-rock score by former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha. Actually, it would've been better had the band decided to cover Pumpkins classics like "Today" and "Disarm." Instead, they perform three songs by '80s Japanese punkers the Blue Hearts. The title tune, "Linda Linda Linda," is as unshakable as a cold, and is bound to be a best-selling ringtone, if it isn't already. RACHEL SHIMP