Scenes I Go Back To: Swing Girls

A decidedly offbeat and absurd scene that is, in fact, a stroke of genius.

When we first began watching Swing Girls, I think my wife had some serious doubts. I can’t really blame her: much of Swing Girls is melodramatic, overwrought, and even cheesy.

But like so many “commercial” and “mainstream” Japanese films out there — e.g., Linda, Linda, Linda, Nana, Densha Otoko: Train Man — there’s a goofy charm just below the surface. A goofy charm that occasionally breaks out, resulting in decidedly offbeat and absurd scenes like this one that are, in fact, strokes of genius.

Our protagonists are trying to find mushrooms in the forest, hoping to sell them to raise money for their swing band. They come across a wild boar, and what ensues is a truly inspired chase scene, one that involves a stuffed pig, the cast members striking all sorts of manic poses, and — the pièce de résistance — “What a Wonderful World.” On paper, the diorama approach shouldn’t work — it’s just too ridiculous. But on screen, when placed side-by-side with the rest of the more straightforward and cheesy high school melodramatics, it works wonderfully.

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