Review: BANDAGE (Kobayashi, 2010)
Japanese title: バンデージ
Director: Kobayashi Takeshi
Being an Iwai Shunji-produced and co-written film, I was quick to pick up BANDAGE, hoping for something original and enjoyable. I’m not sure how involved Iwai was with the film (I’m guessing not too much, though there are undoubtedly Iwai inspirations scattered throughout the film), but it mostly delivered on my hopes.
Casting Akanishi Jin as one of the leads was a smart move by director Kobayashi Takeshi. He brings massive fan support to the movie, not to mention experience in the Japanese music industry. Playing the lead singer of a rock band, Akanishi undoubtedly draws from personal experience (he’s a very popular member of the Johnny’s boy band KAT-TUN–actually, former member now; he decided to go solo using this film as a base) as he plays the carefree yet troubled character of Natsu. His band, LANDS, is quickly gaining mass popularity but encounters problems–the band members just don’t completely gel. A genius musician, Yukiya (Kora Kengo), and a brilliant composer, Arumi (Shibamoto Yuki), form the heart of the band with Natsu supposedly still remaining just because of his indie fan base. It also helps that he can sing.
Asako (Kitano Kii) is a high school girl who loves LANDS. One day, her friend invites her to one of their concerts and they miraculously stumble upon backstage passes. The girls soon find themselves at the band’s after-concert drinking party and Asako strikes up a relationship with Natsu. He’s soon bringing her to rehearsals and calling her up to solve band problems. The rest of the band obviously sees this as a hindrance, though they can’t convince Natsu of that. He really likes her, in his own strange and laid-back way.
Akanishi Jin plays a damn good rocker. Although his character is quite one-dimensional, Akanishi embodies the rocker spirit, entertaining and involving us in the film. Johnny’s Entertainment boys are typically unimpressive actors whose roles are often restrained or stiff. It’s surprising that Akanishi plays such a dark and adult character (yes, he really kissed a girl–a real kiss!). Akanishi’s rock star is seemingly drunk throughout the film (this is his personality) as he rambles and babbles along. It’s all very entertaining, no doubt. Kitano Kii, who also previously starred in the Iwai-produced Halfway (2009), is a pleasure to watch as well. It’s nice to see a young actress so in-control of her characters, I’m always impressed with her. The casting for each character is very good. I especially liked the inclusion of Ito Ayumi (who emerged out of Iwai’s Swallowtail Butterfly (1996)), as the beautiful and smart manager of LANDS.
The cinematography is on-and-off, employing the Iwai-inspired hand-held style which is both effective and annoying. This style of camerawork can either bring extreme originality or make the film appear amateurish. For example, in a few scenes the camera is far too unstable, mostly noticeable towards the beginning, making for an uncomfortable viewing experience (thankfully, these scenes are low in quantity). In other scenes, the camera works well, particularly when filming during performances or when the intimacy that the hand-held camera can bring is needed. I found myself enjoying the cinematography more as the film progressed. Cinematographer Onomichi Koji seems to be Iwai’s new go-to cameraman after the death of his friend Shinoda Noboru, as he is using him here and in his next directorial feature, the English-language Vampire (2011).
Since BANDAGE is a film about music, the songs must be good–and they are. Akanishi’s voice is well-suited to the neo-rock/alternative sound and is pleasing overall. The songs are all original compositions by Kobayashi, who usually produces soundtracks for Iwai’s films (unless he does it himself). The tracks are great, which helps raise the enjoyment scale of the movie. There is a particular scene in the film that gave me goosebumps: Yuichi is playing around with a recording of one of LANDS’s songs in darkness, hair in his face. He alters the voice to be robotic-sounding and plays the guitar with a violin bow. It’s a powerful and dark moment in the film in which we discover the extent of Yukiya’s talent and his deep loneliness.
BANDAGE is ultimately a film about self-discovery. It is effective in portraying the life of an indie band in 1990’s Japan, when the rise and fall of these bands was commonplace due to TV talent shows. With a strong cast, great music, and effective camerawork for the genre, BANDAGE manages to entertain while being an interesting commentary on the music industry at the time. Recommended!
Translated comment Iwai Shunji made about Akanishi Jin:
“After we watched his video clips, I was very shocked. I didn’t expect such an actor in Japan.
However we do have some occasionally, such as Kimura Takuya and Tadanobu Asano.
All of a sudden they come to your face and surprise the world.
This kind of person doesn’t need to brew slowly, but are more a bomb you feel like it’s either going to explode or disappear.[…]
His personality already makes people think of him as an animal who cannot be caged, and everybody can totally feel this unique personality in the story as well. ”
(Credits to Iwai Shunji-fan at AsianMediaWiki)