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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » All About Lily Chou Chou
All About Lily Chou Chou
Home Vision Entertainment // Unrated // February 15, 2005
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Kim Morgan | posted February 10, 2005 | E-mail the Author
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Lily Writer-director Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou-Chou, is one of the most brutal, oblique and visually stunning films I have ever seen on high-definition video. With a narrative that moves through three years, jumps, seemingly, all over the place and runs over two hours—the picture is both challenging and oddly straight forward. Being a teenager is hard. Being a teenager in Shunji Iwai's landscape can be a nightmare.

The story revolves around the young teen obsessed fans of the Bjork-like singer Lily Chou-Chou and the computer group they post in. The rule of posting—you must love Lily. Those chat sessions begin and interject within the film in flashing, titles that occasionally comment on the action, either literally or in dreamily, depressed teen speak.

Our main Lily lover is 14-year old Yuichi (Hayato Ichihara), a moody, stoic boy who's got a huge crush on schoolmate Kuno (Ayumi Ito), a talented classical pianist who loves Debussy (the movie plays this, gorgeously). Both of these sensitive teens are subject to the cruelty of the school's cliques, sometimes with intense viciousness tantamount to Larry Clark's Bully. Yuichi befriends a bad boy, Hoshino (Shugo Oshinari) and he becomes worse as the film rolls on. Sadistically, he forces Yuichi to steal money and give it to him and, even worse, he works as a pimp. Schoolgirl Shiori (Yu Aoi) is his prostitute and she offers her services to horny businessman yearning for those white slouchy socks and uniform skirts. Sadly, she harbors a secret crush on Yuichi but is so under the spell of Hoshino, there's really no future in anything romantic occurring. When you see this lovely girl out flying a kite or just, in general, acting her age, it's especially heartbreaking to hear her say "When I think of men I think of customers."

But this is as simplistic a plot synopsis I can give for a film that is so technically inventive and socially significant. Within these radiant images (some blindingly bright, some so dark you can only see by character's flashlights) is the complexity of a decaying middle-class Japan. Some could see the film as a panic call with its crime, alienation and perversity (one character is brutally raped) or a biting look at Japanese popular culture—how much money and celebrity worship warp the minds of the young. But there is something else to Lily Chou-Chou that I just can't put my finger on. Perhaps because of its intensely beautiful color scheme (never have I seen the green blades of grass look both so electrifying and haunting—especially with a lonely teenager within the frame) and the non-linear way of telling the story, Lily Chou-Chou is so mystifying. But that mystery works within its subject in that, these kids never really know each other. At times they can barely even touch each other—and that is tragic.

The DVD:

Video:

Home Vision Entertainment presents All About Lily Chou-Chou in a digital transfer(1.85.:1) enhanced for 16:9 televisions. The transfer is detailed, boasting the film's use of bright colors and darkness. The black level is good and I noticed minor edge enhancement. I thought the film looked great, but as I've read, there is a better version out there on R2. As I researched, some viewers were fine with this transfer, or disapointed by it. I would love to see the other transfer as this is the only way I've been able to view the picture. *Note the afor 5 star video quality rating was simply a punch-drunk mistake. I apologize for the error.

Sound:

The audio comes in Digital Dolby 2.0 in Japanese with English subtitles. There are no problems with the sound that I noticed, each moment of this musical film resounds clearly.

Extras:

The extras include an essay by director Shunji Iwai, theatrical trailers, a music video "Wings That Can't Fly" and an off-putting, though engrossing making of documentary. The making of furthers the pictures feeling of not being able to separate fact from fiction as often, you really feel a fly on the wall within these teenagers disturbing lives.

Final Thoughts:

Quite simply, an elegiac, alienating work of frequent brilliance.

Read More Kim Morgan at her blog Sunset Gun

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