Tuesday, July 26, 2011

BECK's Heav[enl]y Silence

"Please don't put your life in the hands
Of a Rock 'n Roll band and throw it all away"
- Oasis, Don't Look Back in Anger (1996)

Last month, I received the subtitles prepared by SkewedStudios Fansubs and Scanlations to the live-action version of BECK with instructions from the project leader to typeset the same, bearing in mind to place it on uber-hakaduper-higher-than-the-highest priority on my list of pending projects. Coming into it, I must confess that I was totally oblivious to the existence of the manga penned by Harold Sakuishi and inexcusably ignorant of the lauded anime version of the series. All I knew at the time was that fans of the manga were stoked to see it and girls were quite happy with the selection of pretty boys appearing in it.

Judging by the trailer, BECK, to me, came off as another "band movie". I wasn't all up in arms to see it but I could surmise that it was going to turn out just fine since its cast would be enough to draw people in. However, how much of an impact it would leave on its audience was difficult to imagine, I couldn't tell how well it would fare against other existing manga-to-screen adaptations like Nana and Solanin, not to mention the Akanishi Jin vehicle, Bandage, which also came out the same year.

After months of waiting, it turned out I wasn't completely off the mark; BECK was neither impressive nor disappointing. It was at times turgid and uninspired but overall, ho-hum okay in a sense that it was hard to hate (but don't expect me to re-watch it). Decently made but certainly nothing to rave about, the movie had a great ensemble of young stars, it played well against the opening strains to one of [punk] rock's most recognizable tracks and it even made for a fairly effective coming of age story except for one major glitch...

You don't get to hear Koyuki sing.   

For those unfamiliar with the story, BECK follows the rise to fame of an indie band composed of a talented guitarist named Ryusuke (Mizushima Hiro), ultra-cool and sought-after bassist Taira (Mukai Osamu), energetic frontman Chiba (Kiritani Kenta) and two newbie recruits in the person of drummer Saku (Nakamura Aoi) and second guitar/vocalist extraordinaire Koyuki (Sato Takeru) to complete the line-up.

Like any film adaptation of a manga series, BECK covers multiple story lines, highlighting the personal journey of each character in varying degrees. Life, love, music and friendship are all featured in this film; and while Ryusuke holds the more outlandish sections of the movie with a rather queer affinity with the band Dying Breed and a gangsta encounter brought about by a deboed bullet-ridden guitar named Lucille, the movie's heart and soul belongs to bullied outcast Koyuki, who not only finds meaning and purpose through the band's music but also manages to enchant and inspire thousands of people whenever he sings.

But again, the problem is that you don't get to hear him sing.    

Now what started as a fateful encounter with a fellow band member, followed by an abbreviated music lesson composed of guitar riffs played on a stratocaster, would soon culminate in one big music festival (the likes of Woodstock) where different kinds of band music would take front and center. It was to be BECK's moment of glory and the clincher----Moonbeams with Koyuki on vocals. His voice was supposed to be so pure and special that it would stop people in their tracks. His was the voice that summoned visions of a better world, a brighter future; so much so, that it caught the attention of sassy, elusive Maho (Kutsuna Shiori) and even gained them the respect of their peers. It was his voice that caused a squabble between the band and its high-octane singer, so all logic and common sense demanded the unveiling of that "Greatful Sound" (sic), which unfortunately, nobody got to hear.

Was it so ethereal that I couldn't hear it? Was it supposed to transcend all boundaries of sound that no rendition could give it justice? Or was I supposed to be happy with just seeing the lyrics on the bottom of the screen? The music in itself was great. Anyone who's been to a concert can attest to that fever pitch, that high, that comes with hearing the opening strains to a song complemented by the sound of the singer's voice, but in this case, you hear nothing....which is why BECK's stage performance felt so incomplete.

Oh well, so much for the mute singing wonder.

N.B. Turns out that Moonbeams as featured in the movie was composed by J-indie rock band Spank Page. If you want to hear what the final song was supposed to sound like, you can check out their performance of  BOY; their version of Don't Look Back in Anger is not so bad either.

Images courtesy of Ramen Lover at Asianmediawiki and Just Reveal.
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