Xavierpop Does @Shinsedai_Fest – Louis Reviews “Ringing In Their Ears”
Shinsei Kamattechan is a rock band that uses web cameras and laptops in their live performances to connect with the fans. The band is fronted by Noko who is a bit of a hikikomori, Japanese for shut-in who also does a fair amount of production work on the music as well as spearheads the internet connection between the band and fans. Ringing In Their Ears is director Yu Iri‘s attempt to capture the energy that takes place in the week prior to the bands live performance interlacing several fictional stories from Chiba City.
Michiko (Fumi Nikaido) plays a girl torn between going to university, and keeping her boyfriend, and playing professional shogi (Japanese chess). Single mother Kaori (Kurumi Morishita), who dances at a local nightclub, has a son who simply will not separate himself from his laptop. He manages to spend a fair amount of time following his favourite band, Shinsei Kamattechan, among other things. Interplaying with these two stories is the band’s manager (Mikito Tsurugi) trying to deal with a missing Noko while dealing with the pressure of the corporate system that wants make the band into a pop band with happy lyrics. All this leads to the obvious climax of the film being the live performance.
This is a mature work of a thoughtful director. Themes from teenage angst, parent desperation, living with a shut in, are all handled deftly. Irie gives the characters room to live and breathe, never forcing the moment or being heavy handed with the emotions they convey. There is a marked realism as well. Single mother Kaori’s frustration with having a child, being a pole dancer and lack of money has her snapping at her son for his behavior both at school and at home, but her love sends her running when she thinks he might be in trouble. The conversations between Michiko and her boyfriend, with all the teen awkwardness and silences of things they can’t or won’t say coupled with the desperation of wanting to belong, come through as quite honest and genuine.
The film has a narrative that flows from one story to the next, but builds each on top of another, adding tension that is fulfilled by the emergence of the band onstage. The real star of the film is the band, as all the stories are about them, their music and their online presence in one way or another. All of the stories are focused around the live performance and its different impact in each story. Their music is featured throughout, and plays an important role in the lives of the characters, though not all may understand that role initially.
The performance itself is quite eclectic. Being a mix of rock melodies, piano and dark lyrics borne of a punk attitude. As the house lights go down, the crowd quiets only to roar as Noko takes stage. Laptop in hand, he begins to sing, both to the crowd and the streaming fans online. A large monitor behind the band plays the performance, streaming back text across screen from online fans. The other stories do not end with the start of the performance, though. In fact, as the music begins we are transported to the various threads that build in pressure until both the climax of the music and the stories.
Ringing in Their Ears is a very satisfying and wonderful movie that I recommend highly. And it’s rock and roll all the way.