Story: Yuichi Hasumi (Hayato Ichihara) is a very introverted boy. Someday he meets Hoshino (Shugo Oshinari),
who always gets good grades and is successful in everything he does. He even became the head boy of his school.
Because of that Hoshino often gets bullied by his schoolmates. Nobody seems to understand him, but slowly he makes
some friends. With Hasumi he shares his passion for popidol Lily Chou-Chou. In nightly chat sessions they indulge in
their hobby, but at day they have to continue their fight against the cruel everyday life.
Everything changes after Hasumi, Hoshino and their friends take a trip to Okinawa. Hoshino nearly drownes and thereafter is completely changed. He begins to lead a school gang and is responsible for brawls, thefts and even raping. Hoshino doesn't let anyone bully him anymore, but instead bullys his schoolmates himself. Hasumi also becomes a victim of his former friend for quite often. For the boys their everyday life becomes hell...
Review: "All about Lily Chou-Chou" is a good looking, moving, but more than anything else a confusing movie.
In some way it is the most difficult to understand movie I've seen in quite a while. That is all the more odd since the
message is relatively simple. It's just that most things are for the interpretation skills of the viewer to clear up,
which after this ride into a narratively disturbing confused world seems to be at least not that easy.
It's out of question that with this movie artistically fastidious Arthouse cinema has been made, but why has the entertainment factor to be left out? The first hour you are tempted to just switch off, because you can't get into the movie and the lined up scenes become a blurry mess. Of course in a figurative sense "blurry", cause visuelly Shunji Iwai ("Love Letter") shows us once more that he is a skilled director.
After we've been thrown into the movie and just managed to orientate ourselves, there is a sudden unexpected and only retrospectively apparent cut to the past of the protagonists. Later on, there is a similar discreet cut, but this time into the future. For the viewer this is frustrating as you again and again stand in front of a confusing, seemingly disjointed whole. Patience in this case in fact proves to be a true virtue. Those who manage to push aside their frustration and persist will find that in the ending all seems to make sense. "AALCC" is one of those movies that probably only will make full sense after a second viewing. That's just what makes this movie so incredibly hard to watch.
There is a lot of criticism to start with. As already mentioned it's hard to get into the movie, which is because we don't have a "hero" or "antihero" to identify with. Every time we manage to put ourselves into Hasumi's or Hoshino's place, the movie makes a narrative turn und lets us see the events from the opposite point of view.
Additionally, there is this big cut in the movie in form of the trip to Okinawa. What purpose does this trip serve? Sure, Hoshino has a near-dead-experience und changes exrtemely after that. Apart from that, this episode including a sight-seeing-tour, seems to be protracted without a visible end. It also seems to be of no importance for the movie. But on the other hand, those who don't pay attention might miss something essential. The stranger the boys meet on their journey, in fact decodes the main message of the movie by telling us a metaphor about nature. Even though the world of youth might seem to be a world of fun on the surface, for many youths it is often hell on earth...
Again and again we are taken into the world of Lily Chou-Chou devotees by showing us chatting scenes on a black screen including the sound of typing. This imaginary pop idol embodys the "ether" with her music and manages to let the youths express their true feelings through the unpersonal medium of the internet.
The whole talking about the ether makes the viewer feel puzzled more than once. The ether seems to be a universal feeling or rather no feeling at all. The withdrawal from the world and the simultaneous being part of it. Lily's music is in other words a form of meditation for the youths. A way to flee this gruesome world and to live. At the same time, every album of Lily stands for a certain colour and the attached emotion. Eventually all these feelings like sorrow and despair dissolve in the ether until there is only "being".
The music is extraordinary, melancholic, confusing and moving. Actually, the music reflects what we have to expect of the movie. First, we don't know what to think of it and in its complexity it confuses our mind. But as time goes by there seems to be no alternative than to start loving the music of Salyu, who impersonates Lily Chou-Chou. Even if there are only a couple of songs you might like.
The music genre isn't easy to classify. A mixture of New Age, Pop and some Trip Hop. Similarities to Björk are even pointed out in the movie, but this likeness isn't really the case. Even beside the songs of Salyu the movie sticks out because of its unusual numerously good and fitting music. Among others you will also find classic pieces from Debussy. Even if there isn't much you will take with you from the movie, you might nevertheless end up wanting to buy the OST...
Anyhow, visually "AALCC" is pretty good. Some scenes are just fantastic and dreamlike, for example the moments when the boys are connected with each other by a invisible band, sitting on open fields and listening to the music of their pop idol.
Because of the general use of hand camera style the viewer always feels like being a part of the events. If there just wouldn't be these oftentimes confusing cuts and jumps... One of these strange cuts is like already mentioned the trip to Okinawa. Here, every picture is captured by a hand camera, which gives this journey the feeling of a insertion, because of its breach of style.
Besides of this missing wholeness of the work, it is also disturbing that the movie loses himself in unimportant details. This just doesn't only contribute to the annoyance that the movie is often pretty slow-paced, but also adds to the fact that the movie is quite lengthy with its nearly 2 1/2 hours running time.
"All about Lily Chou-Chou" is a movie about the cruelty of growing up, tyranny and isolation. With a few shocking scenes Iwai draws a sharp, realistic and critical portray of a generation, that is neglected and straying from the right path, emitting a silent cry for love. From suicide to murder and rape, every topic is dealt with, without unnecessary shyness.
Even if the movie keeps being a frustrating experience because of its narrative confusion, there are also some nice scenes. At the end you might even understand the movie in its wholeness, although there will be a lot of things you have to interpret on your own. Sadly, the way to the end isn't parved that good.
I somewhere read a critic who wrote that "AALCC" doesn't make sense in his mind, but in his heart. That hits the nail right on the head.
To recommend "All about Lily Chou-Chou" as a movie would be wrong. As a work of art it has its right to exist and can be very touching and breathtaking. It is difficult to rate a movie like this one. What do you expect of a movie? Pointless or intelligent entertainment? You won't get neither of it! There just isn't much entertainment...
"All about Lily Chou-Chou" is a difficult movie, that can be worth the trouble of watching it, if you are willing to get involved in it. After all, it delivers some unforgettable moments.