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Original Title:

Japan 2010


Takeshi Kobayashi

Jin Akanishi
Kii Kitano
Ayumi Ito
Kengo Kora
Yuki Shibamoto
Hideyuki Kasahara
Nobuaki Kaneko
Hatsunori Hasegawa
Yoshiyuki Ishizuka
Mayu Kitaki
Anne Watanabe

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Story: It's Japan's 90s in which a new wave of indie-rockbands try their luck in the highly competitive music business. One day the girl Asako (Kii Kitano) gets an album of the band "Lands" from her friend and she instantly falls in love with their music. Eventually, Asako also goes to a concert by them with her friend and later on meets them in the backstage area. The leadsinger of the band, Natsu (Jin Akanishi), tries to win over the girl for a night, but his very aggressive nature has no chance with Asako. However, he sees her more often after that until the manager of the band, Yukari (Ayumi Ito), expresses her discontentment about this. But when Yukari gets ill for a few days Asako is taking her spot and from that moment on has a permanent place in the band. Yukiya (Kengo Kora), the true talent in the group, as well as the keyboard player Arumi (Yuki Shibamoto) soon realize, though, that Asako isn't good for the band. She brings quarrels and conflicts into the everyday life of the musicians and when finally, despite all that, a song of the band takes the charts by storm joy is only short-lived as "Lands" has to think about where they want to go in the future...

Review: When in 2001 Shunji Iwai shot his film "All About Lily Chou-Chou" he focused on a fictitious singer whose songs were written by Takeshi Kobayashi. Later on the fictitious singer Lily Chou-Chou made her solo-career as the singer "Salyu" and Kobayashi continued to write her songs at first. The composer and music producer has now delivered his directing debut with "Bandage" and the story written by Chika Kan has been reworked for the film by none other than Shunji Iwai who also plays the part of the producer. Consequently, this journey into Japanese indie-rock of the 90s feels sometimes as an indirect sequel to "All About Lily Chou-Chou", yet is structured in a by far less convoluted fashion and depicts vividly what problems bands at that time were facing. Were exactly are you heading with your music, is any potential buyer still interested in what you are composing tomorrow and how do you deal with loneliness that goes hand in hand with the creative process? "Bandage" is a multi-layered film that seeks to shed some light on these questions.

"Bandage" is told in quiet pictures, but especially at the beginning has a certain dynamic because of the relationships of the different characters. The way Natsu and Asako are getting to know each other is unusal and the relationship unfolding can win over the viewer as well since we don't exactly know where it will end, eventually. At the beginning, there are also some pretty funny moments that originate from the respective situation. Later on everything gets more dramatic, though, but in a very natural fashion so that you don't get the feeling to be forced by the scriptwriter to suffer along with the protagonists. The very plain directing can, also thanks to a few tricks, give the impression that we are actually watching a documentary only that the emotional involvement of the viewer is still given, something that not many movies of this kind achieve. This way the film still radiates a certain warmth.

At times "Bandage" can also be pretty melancholic. Yukiya is probably embodying this element the best. There is a certain intangible loneliness and aimlessness troubling the protagonists and especially Natsu and Asako are connected by this feeling. The rise and fall of the band as well as the internal problems and creative disputes of the group members reflect the everyday life of an indie-band and director Kobayashi manages to capture the attitude to life during the 90s, also thanks to the props. The directing and the camera work is very suble most of the time, at some points the camera is shaking, though, following the protagonists and at one point capturing a scene in one shot for over eight minutes. Especially in the latter case the actors can really show what they've got and are resoundingly successful in that. That's also very important as the characters are what "Bandage" is putting its focus on and music is actually only coming a close second.

Jin Akanishi, who plays the guy without prospects, Natsu, is a former member of the J-Pop group KAT-TUN and so you wouldn't expect anything less than that he can really sing. His acting achievements aren't bad either, however. The emotions and relationships of the characters among one another are very complex and the way they act isn't always comprehensible from the start but in the end are just the more understandable. Kii Kitano can outshine the other actors on many occasions, though, because she is convincing as a fan of the group, who isn't that naive like you would expect a schoolgirl to be, as well as the manager who without a doubt has matured. Furthermore, she is the most convincing one during the emotional scenes. But the supporing actors also manage to portray dazzling individuals who all have their own share of problems to carry along with them. The fact that the side characters are drawn so well also adds to the documentary feel of the movie.

Despite a few funny moments "Bandage" is mainly a drama and the melancholic and sad moments that result from the inability of the individuals to have a relationship, take the upper hand. However, there is still a certain warmth remaining at all times, also thanks to the music. Music is important in the film, of course, but it never unnecessarily pushes itself to the foreground. While the extremely melancholic music in "All About Lily Chou-Chou" could captivate me right from the start the music in "Bandage" is more versatile, yet couldn't really reach me personally at the beginning. That changed during the movie, however, and so everyone should be able to find at least one song in the film that he grows fond of. With their title song "Bandage" the originally ficitious band "Lands" could eventually become number one in Japan's real charts. As a movie "Bandage" is an interesting look at the life of members of an indie-band, whereas the relationships of the characters should be appealing to lovers of dramas. And as a bonus you also get some nice music.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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