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All About Lily Chou-Chou
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For kids around the world, music is often the only salvation when the pain and anxiety of teenage life becomes too much to bear. Yuichi (Hayato Ichihara) is in the 8th grade and he worships Lily Chou-Chou, a Bjork-like chanteuse whose epic music is lush and transcendent. Yuichi only lives for Lily Chou-Chou's big Tokyo concert, where the lies and violence can be washed away by the presence of his goddess and her powerful music. But fate has yet another obstacle in store for Lily's devoted fan.
Bonus features include a Making-Of Featurette and essay by Stephen Cremin (deputy director NYAFF).
WINNER - CICAE Panorama Prize - Berlin Int'l. Film Festival
WINNER - Special Jury Award - Shanghai Int'l. Film Festival
WINNER - Golden Goblet, Best Music - Shanghai Int'l. Film Festival
WINNER - Best New Talent Prize - Yokohama Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Toronto Int'l. Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION - New York Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Seattle Int'l. FIlm Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Karlovy Vary Int'l. Film Festival
OFFICIAL SELECTION - Chicago Int'l. Film Festival ---
Much of All About Lily Chou-Chou is mesmerizing: some of its plaintiveness could make you weep. - Elvis Mitchell, The New York Times
A sprawling and adventurous tale of teen alienation... you absolutely can't miss it. - Andrew O'Hehir, Salon
It's a uniquely lonely film, and one of the year's most memorable. --Michael Atkinson, Village Voice
Iwai's movie is a remarkable, acutely involving one, working on an emotional level that can only really be expressed through music. - Derek Elley, Variety
One of the most haunting, viciously honest coming-of-age films in recent memory. - Ernest Hardy, LA Weekly
Iwai creates Yuichi's world as much through disembodied moments of sight and sound as through action, building to a surprising stab of melancholy. Rating: A- --Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly
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This summer, I thought of the movie again, checked for Blu-Ray (none available yet) and got the DVD. A few reviews here were confusing, about how this particular DVD release (Home Vision Enter't.) was some kind of sub-par travesty of the visual / sonic integrity of the "real" film. To try to be fair, I tried two DVD versions (description and link to other DVD version below**) of the movie to see for myself. I saw no differences between the two, and thought the visuals were all fine, as crisp and clear as they ever needed to be, and the sound was fine on both, too.
(Then I read the comments to these disgruntled reviewers, and I agree that there may be something -- unsuspected pirated copy; bad equipment; confusion over the personal digi-camcorder-filmed sequences; unrealistically high cinematic expectations of a digital-era filmwatcher, who knows? -- that colored their views. Maybe I should've gone after yet another version of the DVD [there are at least two others] to truly vindicate their complaints, but someday the Blu-Ray will come along and render all of these complaints mute anyway.)
But again, for now, I think the stunning cinematography and artful lighting and the music and soundscapes are presented perfectly.
[**FYI, this HVE DVD has more chapter breaks than the other one. This DVD's extras includes a small BTS documentary, a Salyuu music video, an essay by the director, bio / filmography, and trailers. All About Lily Chou has no extras, although the packaging is pretty, with info on the director's career in the paper insert. Although the packaging is Japanese or Chinese, the DVD is Apparently multi-regional...Apparently]
The plot and content of this 2001 film is already pretty well described in the product descriptions and the other reviews, so I won't repeat those. So, who is this movie really for? Certainly not a general audience. There are many harsh topics covered / implied in this film, some more vividly than others. (Details in next paragraph) After a personal preview, and depending on your teens' character / attitude, you could conceivably make it the springboard for a major discussion about many aspects of teen life, the hard and the light, the bad and the good. Granted, there's some dark and depressing stuff in this story, but there are also some lighter and more uplifting aspects, too, that almost balance it out.
A list of harsh story elements, for those trying to determine whether, how, and who to let watch (brace thyselves):
--Extended masturbatory cruelty scene, the action of which is mercifuly off-screen or briefly in very low-light background, but the poor kid keeps going, even after his main tormentors leave
--Plenty of "adult" language, name-calling, multiple thefts in various parts
--Mild parental abuse early in the film
--Many instances of clique-ing and cruel rejection and putting down of outsider kids
--A stranger in Okinawa is hit by a motor vehicle; brief shots of road made bloody by his injured head
--Post-Okinawa protagonist out-bullies a bully by knocking him off a desk, throwing a chair at him, cutting off a mass of his hair, and treating him like a dog, making him wallow naked in the mud
--Suicide implied / corpse / funeral
--Mildly-implied instance of the practice of enjo-kosai
--Implied rape in abandoned textile factory
--Apparent off-screen knife-kill during a stampede/panic
--Assorted other cruel acts (these are teenagers, after all, some of them fitting the definition of bullies)
Also, aside from the drama, this film can be really trying and confusing on several levels. You have to have subtitles, and it's a very textual film, anyway, with a lot of epiliepsy-inducing chat-room text clacking/flashing across the screen in various sequences. It's a stylish and dramatic movie, low on harmless popcorn-munching action sequences. It's over two hours long, and the pace is often slow enough that you really do feel all of that time passing. (via calmness, boredom, shock, or suspense). There's a temporal dislocation, with the middle part being a long prequel to the rest of the movie. There's a degree of cultural divide, since this is about characters in Japan, with their own customs, terminology, obscure cultural references, and unique practices and problems. (The film's Wiki article, with links to the film's own website, can be quite helpful in this regard.) Even so, most of the main characters are teenagers, going through so many of the various issues and trials of all 21st-century teens across the world.
So, would this only appeal to Japan-o-philes, anthropologists/ sociologists, film students, foreign film fans, art film lovers, fans of artier pop music, and various teenagers (for different reasons, despite the more depressing aspects)? I'd like to think the potential appeal of this film can be broader than that, despite the heavier situations, for there is light, life, and beauty in this movie, too.
First off, this is one of my favourite movies, and while it's not for everyone, I would recommend it unreservedly, because if it works for you then the payoff is tremendous.
However, I must warn against this Home Vision version for a first taste of the film. The transfer to DVD in this version is so awful that it goes beyond mere misjudgement, and debate continues about how Home Vision -- a company with an excellent track record with Asian releases -- could have allowed its release. These aren't subtle differences only noticed by fanatics and cinemaphiles; they're huge. It actually looks like it was booklegged from a theatre with a hand-held handicam. But apparently it wasn't, and that's scary.
With regard to the video, the least serious problem is digital artifacting and loss of detail caused by squeezing a 2.5-hour movie plus special features onto a single DVD. That's a marketing decision, and somewhat understandable.
What's not understandable is the incredible graininess that has somehow been introduced into the film. Or the great reduction in contrast and brightness -- the vivid colours of the original were a trademark, yet now everything looks like it was filmed in late afternoon on an overcast day. Even the colour balance has been changed, so that skin tones have a greyish-blue look -- there are no pure whites left (another trademark). And finally, the picture actually shakes -- this is most noticable during the many scenes of typed text.
For most, this would be bad enough, but for me, the audio is even worse than the video -- the worst attempt at dynamic compression I can remember hearing in a film. Yes, the parts that are supposed to be quiet are way too loud, and the parts that are supposed to be loud are way too quiet, but most annoyingly, whenever there's a song playing it sounds like there's some 5-year old kid rapidly flicking the volume knob up
Top international reviews
All About Lily Chou-Chou is an interesting watch with beautiful music, cinematic choices and should be more recognised .
So yes, buy buy buy! But be prepared to think. The film doesn't give you much of a chance to fall behind, but if you keep up it's well worth it. Beautifully presented, fluent story telling and although somewhat slow in places, you won't get bored.
I love this film, although i didn't really appreciate it until the day after i watched it and remembered certain scenes.
What are you waiting for? [:
being still a teenager myself it really dug deep, an i could relate to Yuichi's character............
this film at times made me feel at some points utterly depressed an other points uplifted to the point that i could feel like i could fly...........
this film is amazing and i advise anyone and everyone to watch this...........
Buy it if you want to really feel and 'Breathe' in Lily, or if you think cult culture is intriging.
Hier führen alle Figuren ein Doppelleben: einerseits als verschlossene, scheinbar abgestumpfte, in einer unerbittlichen Hackordnung gefangene Mittelschüler im realen Leben, andererseits als empfindsame, nach Bestätigung und einem Gefühl von Zusammenhang suchende virtuelle Persönlichkeiten auf den Messegeboards im Internet. So offen sie in ihren naiven, emotionalen Bekenntnissen auf den Fan-Seiten eines Pop-Sternchens ihr Innerstes nach außen kehren, so wenig gelingt es ihnen, sich in der wirklichen Welt tatsächlich zu berühren.
Es gibt Gewalt, Prostitution, Vergewaltigung - von den engelsgesichtigen Jugendlichen mit gleichmütiger Miene vollzogen und hingenommen. Und dennoch liegt ein seltsam betörender Schleier über allem; so himmelhochjauchzend-verzweifelt nimmt man sich selbst und die Welt eben nur einmal wahr, und der inzwischen leidlich erwachsene Zuschauer kann sich mit Wonne und Schaudern zurückerinnern an die Sehnsüchte, die ihn mit fünfzehn umgetrieben haben.