Love Bites: A Letterboxd Lens

This month's columnist celebrates imperfect love, films about hobbies, and online obsessions

Article by Xuanlin Tham | 13 Nov 2023
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“GIRLS MEET JAZZ!!!” reads the Letterboxd logline for Shinobu Yaguchi’s 2004 film, Swing Girls. I tap on its poster: a schoolgirl holding a saxophone, jumping into an idyllic, bright blue sky. 

“A tale of delinquent and lazy school girls. In their efforts to cut remedial math class, they end up poisoning and replacing the school’s brass band,” its synopsis reads. Sounds perfect, I say to Louis (three exclamation marks in my head)!!!

Last night, we watched Nobuhiko Obayashi’s His Motorbike, Her Island: a joyous, summer love affair with motorcycles that fluidly pulsed between black-and-white and colour. It’d long been on our unruly and ever-growing Letterboxd watchlist, curated with a recklessness that lands Sans Soleil next to A Goofy Movie

It is not the done thing to praise social media, but I do (mostly) love Letterboxd. I often find my thoughts broadened by the eloquence of a Letterboxd stranger, their thoughts penned with diaristic immediacy. It also encourages you to organically fall down a rabbit hole, once you know what you wish to chase. Right now, that’s Japanese movies about loving your hobbies, I think, as we click our way from His Motorbike, Her Island to Swing Girls

I cry so much seeing these girls fall in love with jazz. Their newfound obsession awakens them to music everywhere, hidden in traffic and sun-dappled laundry and table tennis; I think I love things like they do, in a way that can’t help but recast the world through its lens. Philbert Dy writes on Letterboxd that they “risk caring about something in a world that can seem so uncaring. We won’t get it right every time, but as long as we really care, we’ll get it right eventually.” My review of Swing Girls, also trying to get it right, reads: “PERFECT.”