Linda, Linda, Linda Nobuhiro Yamashita

Things look desperate for an all-girl Japanese rock band when their guitarist injures her finger just days before the school festival and the singer leaves. Band-mates Kei (Yu Kashii), Kyoko (Aki Maeda) and Nozomi (Shiori Sekine) appear to have no choice but to quit when they decide to cover the song "Linda Linda Linda" and hire Son (Bae Doona), a South Korean exchange student who's never sung in a band and can barely speak Japanese. Some background: "Linda Linda Linda" was a '80s hit by legendary Japanese punk group the Blue Hearts, and the film serves as an affectionate tribute to DIY Japanese rock bands. As for Son, casting a Korean in a Japanese band is a little like hiring a Croat to play with Serbs: there's little love lost between the two groups. However, Linda, Linda, Linda doesn't focus on this potentially divisive point. Then again, the film doesn't seem to focus on any conflict for two hours. Director Yamashita takes a low-key approach to this drama, so low that the film dips into tedium as we follow the girls from band rehearsal to band rehearsal, rarely glimpsing their family or inner lives. What are their dreams and fears? What conflicts divide them and what loyalties bind them through thick and thin? Furthermore, what are the stakes if they win, or don't perform in the school festival? Linda, Linda, Linda doesn't answer these questions, preferring to capture the drama in a detached, almost documentary style that doesn't gel with the story or music. To paraphrase former Stones' manager Andrew Loog Oldham, "a rock song is useless if it doesn't move you." The same rule applies to films. (Bitters End./Covers & Co./Vap/Cave)