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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
I don't know why I bother with Hollywood when there are so many rich projects like this hiding in corners. The problem of course is finding them. The most significant benefit I get from writing IMDb comments is that readers lead me to them. That happened in this case.
If you are an ordinary viewer , you probably won't like this. Its yet another dip into high school angst, overly long and structurally a bit too cute.
I think you'll have to train yourself to watch films lucidly, but if you do, this will be quite effective. You will fall into it and really be influenced, much more viscerally than say "There Will be Blood," where there is no path for us to enter the world we watch.
The matter of this concerns teen alienation, particularly through how we/they take things that happen and weave them into whatever simple, grand narrative is available usually through commercial pathways. Its a simple chord to strike, but one we all know, both from when we were that age, and from how we live now, which is only a half degree separated.
You'll encounter death, teen prostitution, rape. Gang dynamics involving intense humiliation. Clueless adults of course. Sexual drives and identity vacuums of course, but subordinated to the more overwhelming urge to be part of a cosmic story. Usually, we ignore this in film, because sex and role are inherently more cinematic. Less true, but easier to show as true.
Its the multiply nested structure that makes it work. The scenes are presented non- linearly. The overriding narrative is not what we see, but a collection of instant messages exchanged among the characters we see. These evoke the images we see, perhaps not as they happened, but as they are recalled. There's an overarching cosmos that these text messages reference, an abstract, perfect world of ethereal dynamics conveyed through a goddess, a girl singer. The slightest nuance from, the smallest bit of news about, the slightest rumor concerning this singer provides ledges for a life, for a whole gaggle of lives bumping up against each other.
In the center of this thing, you have a radical departure. All of a sudden, instead of the camera anchored in the test messages, we have a camera rooted in reality. Its literally footage from video cameras from the core teen boys as they go on an exotic vacation to Okinawa. Naturally, the four spindly 14-15 year olds are guided by four of the most appealing older girls in memory. Its colorful, jerky. Full of life, a real, embodied life that by its appearance makes all the rest of the thing seem incredibly sad in its artificiality.
Someone knew what they were doing when they put this together. Someone deep and true and of the kind we need more of if we are to make it through. Or do I hang my life on commercially available narrative too?
Ted's Evaluation -- 3 of 3: Worth watching.
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