'Louder! I Can't Hear What You're Singin', Wimp!' Is As Wild As Its Title [Fantasia Film Festival]

Somewhere between Aggretsuko, A Star Is Born and Benny Hill shenanigans exists Satoshi Miki's Louder! I Can't Hear What You're Singin', Wimp!. An utterly delightful blend of headbanger rambunctiousness and proper coming-of-self sweetness. Open yourself to an international cinematic mindset that never takes itself seriously enough to abandon lively party vibrations that are assertively "silly," but float by with effervescent dreamlike appeal. The kind of filmmaking that pushes back against realism with zany slow-motion camera pans and theatrical overreactions – '60s disco wigs and Nicolas Cage jokes – in a way that's reminiscent of circus hijinx meet Apatow-era oddities. Except more eccentric and farther-flung still?

Trust me, Miki's title is everything you need to know before going in. Loud, proud and scored by plenty of crankable tunes worth audience uproars.

Sin (Sadao Abe) is a Rob Zombie brand lead vocalist worshipped by sold-out crowds in Zion-like warehouse venues. Fuka (Riho Yoshioka) is a whimpering street musician who can hardly sing louder than a whisper. One night when Sin's vocal cords burst on account of his constant doping (yes, like singer steroid enhancement), he flees the gruesome scene and crashes into Fuka. Thus instigates their tangled journey towards conjoined self-realizations – one a maniacal screamer who believes volume is everything, the other who barely registers a single decibel and insists "feelings" are meant to be heard. As a wise man (daredevil) once said, "Pump it up!"

Audiences can expect lowbrow laughs, highbrow energy and melodic enchantment that demands a vinyl release. Sin's opening number with band Ex Machina oozes latex filth and plaster-stiff hairstyles which replicate Japanese music scene cultishness – but, to be fair, that's the last we really get of Ex Machina given Sin's Re-Animator juice abuse (bright green vials). Crunchy distorted guitar riffs still rage on, but more emphasis is placed on soap-star-with-a-sense-of-humor conflicts that shouldn't work anywhere near as well as they do. A guitar case flying into the air, landing street-flat on the ground, opening on its own and showing the camera nothing is damaged kind of fluff. What is gravity, even (eye-patch nurse tossing a vile into the air that dangles on a string and plops into Fuka's hands)?

It's nothing like American cinema, and as an American, I do wish we'd stop taking ourselves so seriously.

On a purely musical front, you'll grow exhausted pointing out all the Western pop-culture references Miki works in. AC/DC and KISS shirts, a hippie-dippie character named "Uncle Zappa," "Welcome To My Nightmare" song title dialogue winks. Louder! I Can't Hear What You're Singin', Wimp! is more than just a foreign ode to fame or Eastern-culture-only nods. US viewers often get skittish when movies with subtitles start playing, and it's important to stress these native relations. No reason to feel out of place. Shake the stigma of only watching local content.

Performances throughout are more slapstick than a banana cream pie to the crotch and I love it. Charming in their abandon of certain sincerities and spectacularly oversold. Sadao Abe shouts and hollers like an amped-up rock god as the "tiny" voiced Riho Yoshioka opens wide to expel her softest vocal reverberation. One single scene where Sin throws a brand new guitar through Fuka's window perfectly captures how Miki and his muses combine comedy, madness and pure joyful entertainment as the generous gesture turns into hilarity. In Louder! I Can't Hear What You're Singin', Wimp!, only the unexpected is to be counted on.

It is true that Miki could have shortened this entire speaker-blaring affair, but personality is on grand enough display to keep audiences bopping along. Miki stresses fun first, foremost and forever. Riho Yoshioka as Fuka blossoms into a bright stage-destined talent who benefits from her flamboyant Deus-ex surprise mentor, while still sticking to bulgy-eyed expressions whenever Miki's story undercuts cheesy-fingered drama with another out-of-DEEP-left-field turn into childish outbursts. 

Louder! I Can't Hear What You're Singin', Wimp! is a refreshing symphonic odyssey that spans face-melting existential anthems to Spanish guitar finger-snappers, never once submitting to the deflated generics of calmly orchestrated dramas. Cartoon sentiments of the highest cinematic order. Better yet? Satoshi Miki is deceptively 100% in control. Fuka's lessons are well-earned and Sin's teachings not lost in his constant need to embrace "unnecessary" actions. Yakuza thugs steal souls, sexual trifectas ensnare betrayal, and novelty-sized firework explosions are only accents to the grandest spectacle of all: our own populous desires of being something more than ordinary.

With that in mind, mission accomplished, Satoshi Miki. Louder! I Can't Hear What You're Singin', Wimp! is anything but ordinary.

/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10