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All About Lily Chou Chou (JAPAN 2001)

Director : Shunji Iwai
Producer : Naoki Hashimoto
Cast : Hayato Ichihara, Takao Osawa, Shugo Oshinari, Miwako Ichikawa, Yu Aoi, Izumi Inamori, Ayumi Ito

Synopsis :
Life isn’t easy for a group of high school kids growing up absurd in Japan’s pervasive pop/cyber culture. As they negotiate teen badlands- school bullies, parents from another planet, lurid snapshots of sex and death- these everyday rebels without a cause seek sanctuary, even salvation, through pop star savior Lily Chou-Chou, embracing her sad, dreamy songs and sharing their fears and secrets in Lilyholic chat rooms. Immersed in the speed of everyday troubles, their lives inevitably climax in a fatal collision between real and virtual identities, a final logging-off from innocence.

by Liz Brkljac

This memorable film by Shunji Iwai, deals with the agony of childhood experience, particularly the torment of its main character, Yuichi , a victim of vicious school bullying

Yuichi, a Japanese 8th Grader, is gradually broken down through bullying and abuse, until he only really cares for his favourite singer, the iconic Lily Chou Chou from the title, who’s haunting, post grunge music permeates this atmospheric story.

A memorable scene from the film that will stay with the viewer shows the main character being beaten by his mother in punishment for the theft of the latest Lily Chou Chou release that Yuichi could not afford after being robbed by school bullies. Yuichi’s mother is pregnant and exhibiting clear signs of unusual behaviour as they attempt to exist in a dysfunctional environment, the beating taking place in front of the boy’s surprised teachers. As the staff attempt to calm the woman down, you notice Yuichi withdrawing further into his shell.

As he seeks escape from the world, he becomes increasingly fixated on Lily Chou Chou, eventually running her fan site from his computer.

A majority of the film consists of the website chat of Lily’s site, which acts as a form of narrative and is particularly effective in bringing us into the story, allowing us to see inside the minds of Lily’s fans, especially that of the increasingly unstable Yuichi.

Through the website Yuichi meets Blue Cat, who he feels is the only person who truly understands him. Blue cat is not what he seems, and this remote relationship is central to the twist and final denouement.

This is not an easy film to watch, with its recurrent themes of extreme bullying and gang rape, but the viewer should find this assists the plot and is all in context with this tragic story, which uses overstatement in order to frame the characters into what they become.

Nor is it an easy film to follow, the continuity is at various times highly mobile asking a great deal of the viewer. The over all feeling is one of artful disconnectedness. And yet, it all works, with the central themes finally converging to an inevitable climax. The audience will find that a repeated viewing discloses further layers of understanding initially missed.

The photography is breathtaking, giving the piano soundtrack by Claude Debussy an iridescence that contrasts beautifully with the violent content, giving the film an atmosphere that is unforgettable. Clocking in at a healthy 140 minutes, this will appeal to all serious students of Asian Cinema, particularly those used to film makers who use screen time to tell the whole story at their own pace.

Plot : 4/5
Acting : 4/5
Entertainment : 3/5
Overall : 4/5

Buy this movie at :  YesAsia – All About Lily Chou-Chou

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