All About Lily Chou-Chou

Dir: Shunji Iwai, 2001. Starring: Hayato Ichihara, Shûgo Oshinara and Ayumi Ito, Japanese/Asian Cinema.
All About Lily Chou-Chou

The youth of many nations, especially industrial ones, are full not only of angst but of a yearning to fit in and be understood. For Yûichi and a group of followers just like him, the "ethereal" music of Lily Chou-Chou has become the center of their world, both in cyberspace and reality. Yûichi is the fan site manager under the code name "philla," where he reviews and praises her music with a sense of enlightenment and desperation. Like today’s youth, only anonymous and without photos, these young people drift online in order to connect and rave about the things they find most interesting, which for this group is Lily. But underneath the melodies and enchantment, Yûichi and other fans are still just homeless souls looking for adventure. Though Yûichi is really just looking for an escape, his reality grants him the total opposite. He and his actual friends occupy themselves with petty theft, a mysterious summer vacation, and several humiliating pranks that go terribly wrong. His world shifts into a tumult of despair and unkindness in what he calls "the age of gray," where all the color bleeds dry from the world. His only solace is a lush and isolated rice field where he goes to be alone and listen to Lily.

This advancement of newfound responsibility and savage energy reminds me of what it is like to become an adult. When you’re young, you almost worship your music idols and look to their sound for understanding and piece of mind. But for Yûichi and others, the pressure to find that same balance in reality becomes nearly impossible after you reach a certain age. Not that some can’t or others never did, but for him there is no turning back or resolution.

I like that the film takes me back to what it felt like to be in Junior High in the late '90s. Sure, the culture is very different, but the overall feel to it is the same, even in the East. A fact I wish I would have been aware of back then. For that very reason this would be a great film for teenagers to see.

The photography also reminded me of the '90s. Many shots were very dark and poorly lit, and some were artfully saturated in green. Aside from the harsh contrast, there was mesmerizing underwater photography and an edgy use of various cameras, including handheld footage purposely mixed into the plot, which was starting to become the norm, mainly in Western cinema. I’d have to say that it was one of the first Japanese films that I’ve seen that was completely informal and with direction focused mainly on plot and symbolism, with a near total abandon of the fancy stuff, which is really neat.

Overall, what is being presented here might not be anything new to an audience ten years later, but it certainly is an enjoyable time-warp into teenage angst and displacement in the Y2K. I don’t recommend it as a family movie, but teens out there should give it a try.

Posted by:
Edythe Smith
Mar 31, 2010 6:32pm
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