From the New York Asian Film Festival: Our Review of ‘All About Lily Chou-Chou’

Posted in Festival Coverage, Movies, NYAFF 2016 by - July 06, 2016
From the New York Asian Film Festival: Our Review of ‘All About Lily Chou-Chou’

The internet used to be such a nice place, a virtual place of discovery and camaraderie and mystery, the exact opposite of the real world full of ignorance. Let’s focus on the mystery aspect here, which isn’t the case in our Internet 2.0 where a person’s fame explodes and their privacy ends. So it’s kind of fortunate that director Shunji Iwai offered us All About Lily Chou Chou back in 2001, a film documenting that era when a fictional Kate Bush-esque musician released her alternative, angsty records. The audience only gets to see a music video of her projected on a screen in one of the film’s penultimate scenes.

Iwai, then, focuses on her impressionable fandom, communicating through e-mail chains politely debating her art and impact. But between inter titles showing this correspondence we also get to see the faces behind the screen names, their bodies standing in the centre of rural Japanese fields, alone, devotedly listening to their Walkmans. Iwai tells the story of one fan Yuichi Hasumi (Hayato Ichihara), a middle-school aged boy who take time off this juvenile delinquency to have slumber parties and introduce his few trusted friends to the few musicians that they like.

Iwai performs a balancing act while telling this story, one element of the film to complement its opposite. The camera is canted yet free as we follow the boys and their female classmates in Truffaut-esque misadventures that sometimes happen at night. The e-mail chains showing anonymous people supporting each other and the use of Lily and Claude Debussy’s music refreshens our perspective of small town, Japanese adolescence. Contemporary Japanese cinema has a maligned reputation for being too exuberant when its characters bloody each other up. The movie has its share of that, but Iwai understands the extent of young violence.

All About Lily Chou Chou has already screened as a part of NYAFF

This post was written by

While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you’re working.