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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. Written by
Sujit R. Varma
It's always difficult to write a review on a piece of art that speaks to you personally. I'm not sure what I'm about to write yet but it may be worth taking it with a pinch of salt, since I'm unable to get over just how much I love this movie.
Even if it doesn't resonate with you, "All About Lily..." is still clearly a film of a high artistic standard. Iwai has succeeded in creating a beautiful atmosphere but one of extreme coldness and sterility. The poster shot of the bright green rice fields, which practically leap off the screen at you, are stunning to look at but evoke such loneliness. It's no wonder Debussy was used on the soundtrack; few other composers can create such beautiful music that sounds so distant, like you can't touch it. The shots of one of the characters playing his pieces on the piano are made to look almost ethereal. Such music and images, coupled with the use of a digital camera which does bizarre things with light (sometimes the camera will be in a room and it looks like the sun is right outside the window), give the film a hypnotic, surreal quality. This is also added to by the fractured narrative which at times seems to be trying to deliberately make you believe the wrong thing.
The acting is unbelievably naturalistic and at times very brave, especially by 13yr old actor Hayato Ichihara (Yuichi) who's deadpan expressiveness reminds me of Montgomery Clift. Oshinari's (Hoshino) is probably the stand-out performance though. He has more to work with, but even so, it's incredible. So intense and human.
The naturalism coupled with Iwai's interest in seemingly trivial, everyday moments means the film conveys an incredible amount of information even when very little appears to be happening on screen. The clue to a character's motivation can be picked up just by watching what they're doing in the background. Rarely do you see a movie treat the audience so intelligently. Nothing is signposted. Nothing is explained. It's just SHOWN to you and your mind is forced to make sense of it.
Finally, I have never seen a movie treat my generation so sensitively and truthfully. You would never see a movie like this made in the West, except maybe by Ken Loach, but then he'd make it like a documentary. "All About Lily..." is nothing like a documentary. The content is naturalistic but the style is pointedly not. That juxtaposition is another thing that makes it so great.
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