Linda Linda Linda (2005) — May 13, 2015
Last night, I dreamt that Bae Doona was a professional basketball player and was generating serious All-Star consideration as the point guard for the New York Knicks. It took me awhile, on waking, to realize that that was in fact a dream and not reality, because honestly, she’s capable of anything.
Added September 11, 2019:
A perfect movie.
Can anyone tell me if there were stories of Japanese high school girl bands hanging out and prepping for a big show before this movie, or did it launch a genre which would later include K-On! and Sound! Euphonium?
Added December 31, 2020:
This is our kingdom.
La La La at Rock Bottom (2015) — January 10, 2016
The director of Linda Linda Linda with a film about a hood who gets out of jail, becomes amnesiac after a mugging, and reinvents himself as the singer in a small-time band. Modest and precise, somehow, without noticing, it becomes The Last Laugh.
Over the Fence (2016) — July 25, 2017
Joe Odagiri plays Shiraiwa, an apparently lost man attempting to rebuild his life. He is studying carpentry at a vocational school and bicycles everyday between that and a tiny house on the outskirts of town. A quiet loner, he’s dragged out for a drink with a classmate where he meets Satoshi (Aoi Yû), a beautiful woman with a fondness for imitating the calls and mating rituals of various bird species. A kind of manic depressive pixie dream girl, Satoshi eventually seduces Shiraiwa, but then flips out on him. Eventually we learn his backstory, but hers is only hinted at. In fact, we learn less about her than we do many of Shiraiwa’s classmates (a reformed yakuza, a retired bartender, a young man enacting a low-key version of Full Metal Jacket). This unfortunately makes the film, for most of its running time, dramatically less compelling than Yamashita’s last feature, La La La at Rock Bottom, let alone his 2005 film Linda Linda Linda, hands-down one of the best movies of the 21st century. But still, Yamashita excels at endings, and there’s some kind of magic when this occasionally funny, but mostly depressing, not-quite love story somehow turns into a stealth remake/inversion of The Natural.
Hard-Core (2018) — June 28, 2019
Yamashita Nobuhiro is now almost fifteen years removed from Linda Linda Linda, doubtless the greatest high school film of the century thus far. He remains a regular on the festival circuit, though none of his recent movies have generated anything like the excitement of that masterwork. I’ve seen three of his last four films, La La La at Rock Bottom, Over the Fence, and this year’s NYAFF entry Hard-Core, and all are about sad sack men who don’t properly know how to deal with the worlds in which they find themselves. And each one has been worse than the one before it. La La La was saved, as its hero is, by music, while Over the Fence found escape in carpentry, baseball, and a terrific pair of performances from Joe Odagiri and Aoi Yû. But Hard-Core is simply lost in itself, its collection of losers as charmless and uninteresting as the film’s forced whimsicality. Yamada Takayuki plays the lead, a lonely and honest man who is so certain of his own righteousness that he can only react with violence when others fail to meet his standards. The film’s opening moments are its best, with Yamada drinking in a bar being proud of himself for not hitting on the only woman there, then exploding into rage when another group comes in and enlists her in their drunken revelry. From there it descends into the maudlin and dull, as Yamada and his best friend join an old man digging for treasure and find a robot. They all hang out together looking sad and try to deal with the corruption of their bosses and Yamada’s businessman brother, but our world ultimately proves too impure for them. The longer I’ve sat with it, the less I’ve liked it, whereas every other Yamashita movie has grown on me with time.