Book: Sounding Funny
Chapter: An Okinawan Romance: Lyrical Dialogue, Comedy and Music in Nabbie’s Love
Yūji Nakae’s 1999 film Nabbie’s Love is a contemporary comedy shot on Aguni, a small, sparsely populated island off the west coast of Okinawa. In genre terms, the film is connected with various traditions. It can be identified as a ‘comedy of manners’, in the Western sense of that classification, since it wittily depicts the foibles and social minutiae of a specific community as it negotiates the impact of an illicit romance conducted within it. Its musicality is less easily aligned. Despite the prevalence of music, it cannot be considered a ‘musical’ in any conventional sense, since it does not feature an alternation of realist narrative drama and ‘set-piece’ musical numbers. However, it is so thoroughly imbued with music that it might be considered to represent an idiosyncratic form of musicalised drama. It approaches the latter category by utilising music (and, in particular, the shima uta - ‘island songs’ - distinctive to its locale) as an element that brackets and defines the characters’ interactions. The film’s songs inform the audience about the film’s characters and their motivations and anticipate, comment on and precipitate its comedy and drama. The chapter analyses the musical elements of the film’s text with regard to these factors and offers a reading that illustrates how these are deployed to produce a singularly effective style of musicalised romantic comedy.