'LOUDER! Can't Hear What You're Singin', Wimp!' is weird, wild and wonderful at the Fantasia International Film Festival

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This Christmas, moviegoers will have the chance to see the latest incarnation of A Star Is Born, in which an ingénue actress (or singer, depending on which version you’re watching) rises to the top of her profession, guided to the heights of fame by a member of the old guard whose career is simultaneously slipping.

At Fantasia International Film Festival, another film based on that same general theme had its world premiere. One thing LOUDER! Can’t Hear What You’re Singin’, Wimp! already has over its  more traditional counterpart is this: In the latter film, you probably won’t see star Bradley Cooper vomiting torrents of blood.

But there are torrents of blood, slapstick comedy and so much more in LOUDER!, written and directed by Adrift in Tokyo’s Satoshi Miki. In an interview with the director, he noted that his film wasn’t directly inspired by A Star Is Born, but some of the basic bones are there. Sweet, shy Fuka (Riho Yoshioka) is an aspiring singer/songwriter kicked out of her band because of her barely audible voice. Sin (Sadao Abe) is a heavy metal rock god famed for his loud pipes, which he’s achieved through the highly dangerous procedure known as “vocal cord doping.” And then, the meet-cute: Sin runs from a disastrous concert where the aforementioned blood torrent occurred, only to run into Fuka on the street and, well, vomit even more blood in her face.

If the presence of heavy metal music and blood vomit makes you think that LOUDER! is going to be some sort of brutal, balls-to-the-wall paean to the death metal lifestyle, one where Fuka is transformed from a guitar-strumming singer/songwriter to s black-clad rocker goddess… well, you’d be wrong. Miki has crafted something much more miraculous and complex: A funny, at times dark, surprisingly sweet story about finding your own voice and not letting fear stop you from expressing it.

Miki, speaking through a translator, expressed gratitute that Fantasia’s world premiere audience was laughing at his film in all the right places—“but if I see some of the audience crying a little, that makes me more happy.”

A common refrain in LOUDER! is Fuka being told by Sin and others that she shouldn’t make excuses not to do things—to go to an audition, to try a new food, to do something as simple as sing loud enough that other people can hear her. That, Miki explains, is the core theme of the film. “Fuka is not singing loud enough because she doesn’t want to expose her emotions. There are always a lot of people trying to find a reason not to do—so this film is a call [for them to act]… It’s better to regret doing something than regret not having done it.”

Throughout LOUDER!, Sin tries not to mold Fuka, but to encourage her to be loud and proud in who she already is. Their differences are echoed in the work of the film’s three costume designers: Sin’s outfits, inspired by the bands Scorpions and Judas Priest, are mostly black, while Fuka is decked out in a low of white.

The film’s affecting message is kept from delving too far into sentimentality by the slapstick comedy Miki has woven through. (Speaking about LOUDER! with other festivalgoers, several independently lauded the scene where Sin breaks through Fuka’s window, causing her to roll around on the floor in shock for a good 30 seconds.) Fuka lives in a sort of goth/hippie commune led by her “Uncle Zappa” (his look inspired by Frank) and “Auntie Devil”(black-clad and take-no-shit, played with delicious verve by Eri Fuse) who run an ice cream shop where the goodies are adorned with candy eyeballs and tongues. At one point, a naked man, his genitals obscured by a black circle, runs around lobbing fireworks. But all the comedy—inspired in part, Miki says, by the Coen brothers—is kept down to Earth by Sin and Fuka’s poignant arc, culminating in a bittersweet ending.