Hula Girls (2006) (Japan)

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Hula Girls (2006) (Japan)

Postby justindeimen » Fri Mar 09, 2007 2:33 pm

Courtesy of


Winning Best Film and Best Director at the Japan Academy Awards as well as being Japans official submission for the 2007 Oscars foreign film category, Korean director Lee Sang-ils Hula Girls has more charm than one can shake their tail feathers at and more mileage than one might expect from another story of underdogs railing against the establishment. The generational gaps and cultural reconfiguration and adaptability of the young are examined through humour and heartfelt observations in the true story of an ebbing factory town in the north of Japan called Joban, in 1965.

The trajectory of the story is predictably bittersweet, but doesnt veer into heavy soap or tedious social commentary to earn its stripes as a film with sufficient gravitas and consequence. It recalls such Japanese genre gems such as Swing Girls, Shall We Dance and Linda Linda Linda with the colourful and carefully tuned characters that weve come to expect and the late, great flourish in the climax showing all the hard work and strife endured being paid off in spades. Hula Girls earns its emotional output and goodwill with its characters. There are no villains but only circumstances to be braved and they level us through their actions, not their words.

Sanae (Eri Tokunaga) and Kimiko (Yu Aoi) are teenagers hoping to leave their oppressive environment see a chance of a way out, or at least a change of pace from a dreary life when the coal-mining town finds its lifeblood being siphoned away by the rising industry of oil. In order to stop the rot, a representative from the coal company supposes an idea to transform the chilly town of Joban into a tourist attraction by way of a Hawaiian cultural centre (remember, this is based on a true story) that inevitably draws criticisms and reproach from the town elders. The hula dance, critical to the success of the centre is cause for concern amongst the conservative townies. They have everything to lose by not acquiescing with the plan but what they arent prepared to give up are their convictions and principles, especially not in the face of a world defiantly changing beyond their control.

With the onus of the towns prospects set squarely on the bold few, they are coached by an apparently blas Madoka (Matsuyuki Yasuko) who finds herself in over her head with the motley crew of nave but determined young girls ready to take over the reins of leading their towns workforce. These girls are faced with decisions to uphold their families wishes or to do what they feel is right for the economically depressed town, despite the risks being taken. The film brings to light the role of sexism in small towns through its dramatic confrontations, where girls grow up to be wives and mothers instead of individuals with the same respect in the workforce as men.

Theres a distinct sense of rebelliousness throughout the proceedings, especially when the girls finally grow into their own skin and shake their hips for the world to behold. The camera captures every titillating movement, relishing in the vindication of following their beliefs. The didactics of the script, without the lack of surprises and deviations finds itself with its own measure of vindication as well in its deftly executed simplicity when it recently won Lee the Best Screenplay category at the Japan Academy Awards.

Re: Hula Girls (2006) (Japan)

Postby hengcs » Sat Mar 10, 2007 2:52 am

Wow ... u managed to catch it at the preview?!
cos I wanna buy the tickets ...
but "first" screening only next friday ...
envious ...
but, I will be watching ...

Re: Hula Girls (2006) (Japan)

Postby justindeimen » Sat Mar 17, 2007 1:38 am

Yeah but apparently, they are going to have a general release in May so the Anniversary screening won't be temp.

Re: Hula Girls (2006) (Japan)

Postby hengcs » Sun Mar 25, 2007 12:31 am

I have watched it yesterday too ...

Hmmm ... lots of mixed comments,
there are some things which I like,
and there are some that I thought are rather "typical" of Japanese comedy ...

What I like ...

-- definitely the dance moves ... well, to many of us, they could probably even pass off as Hawaiin dancers ...

-- not many talked abt her, but i would like to commend on the actress who acted as the mother ... hmmm ... a particular scene stood out ... the scene whereby she went to the dance school to deliver the parcel, and simply stood that, with "mixed" emotions ... not much expressions, but she could probably exude to the audience her full of mixed feelings ... * clap * ... and following that, her pulling of the cart, and her delivery of lines abt what she used to think ... simple supporting role, but very convincing ...

-- rather subtle in some of the scenes (abt feelings/thoughts) etc ... and a bit "philosophical" near the end ...

-- inspired by real events, i thought the last 1 hour was pretty good ... now you ask, why dont i say so much abt the beginning?!

What I thought could be better?

-- Hmmm, the front portion was okay to me (not great, but not too bad either) ... why?! ... i thought it took on the stereotypes of many typical Japanese comedies ... with some rather exaggerated expressions (forgive me), with some predictable "roles" (abt the various dancers), and to some extent, a bit similar to those "underdog" stories ...

-- in contrast to some paras above, some scenes are not too subtle, and rather obvious/exaggerated/predictable ...

Recommended ... but frankly, I prefer the second half to the first half ... is it really the Best Film from Japan last year, let me watched a few more and tell you ...

Re: Hula Girls (2006) (Japan)

Postby hengcs » Mon Mar 26, 2007 12:44 am

I forgot to add ... there are 2 other scenes I like

(i) Near the end, whereby the girls were abt to rush up the train, the main protagonist chose to stand still ... and then, she started to ... * no spoilers * ... i thought it was really a very well scripted screen ...

(ii) by the way, despite my having been to Hawaii before, and watched them dance ... this is the first time I knew there is so much meaning to each movement ... wow ...

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