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The Rise and Fall of the Unparalleled Band

June 10, 2011

Aosugita Guilty (Japan, 2010)

More or less successful band films keep merging from Japan on a regular basis. The genre is favored by mainstream audiences for understandable reasons: it enables bringing handsome idols and hit music to the screen. The results have often been less than admirable, but every now and then someone hits the target, like Nobuhiro Yamashita did with his crowd pleaser Linda Linda Linda (2005). Unknown director Wataru Hiranami tries something different. He has made an indie film about indie band.

The Guilties are a legend! They don’t actually exist, but that hasn’t kept Hiranami from making a semi-authentic movie about them. The unknown cult favorites are introduced to the viewer by a Nepalese narrator (the director’s friend who was in a need of work!) as if they were a real band. The documentary introductions do, however, soon take a back seat as the fictional film kicks off. Following the birth of the band’s sole album, the storyline is divided into chapters named after songs found on that record.

There are various good thing about The Rise and Fall of the Unparalleled Band, most importantly, its structure. Ignoring the most traditional story narrative, Hiranami presents the band’s history in short, 5-10 minute fragments centering on particular fun or remarkable events. The film takes a form that is something between sketch collection and story film, effectively allowing the viewers to do some thinking on their own. It’s a good example of how disjointed form can actually add something to a relatively standard storyline.

Director – writer Hiranami has come up with some excellent characters. The definite highlight is the guitarist, Tanaka (Kento Hosoda), on the run from ‘That 70’s Show’ and given up on verbal communication for “unspecified reasons”. He does all his communication by his guitar. His fellow musicians don’t pale in comparison either, although the party does go downhill towards the end when new characters are introduced. Hiranami has not fully understood that not every storyline has to follow established dramatic conventions – not even if the film was called The Rise and Fall of the Unparalleled Band.

Despite some overly familiar story twists during its second half The Rise and Fall of the Unparalleled Band never ceases to entertain. Some credit has to be given to the slightly harsh and grainy digital cinematography that, perhaps almost accidentally, breaths fresh air into the movie. With an additional layer of visual realism and intimacy even the more cliché character drama comes out a tiny bit more innovative. This is more than welcome, as overly polished disco-band films have been seen excessive amounts already. Hiranami here walks the quieter path – his band never even enters the stage!

The Rise and Fall of the Unparalleled Band is not a remarkable movie by any means, but for its narrative and visual outlook alone a pleasing new contender in its genre. Good characters, various fun scenes, and breezy visuals easily compensate for some of its less inspired drama. There isn’t much music to be heard, but the nice little band has received a nice little movie to tell their story. Even if they don’t really exist.

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