All About Lily Chou-Chou(Home Vision Entertainment, 2.15.2005)
Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou-Chou is undeniably one of the most horrific and ferocious films about teen adolescence, to date. Yet, it maintains much more poignancy than, say, Larry Clark's sensationalized depictions of youth in Kids, Bully, and the wretchedly heinous Ken Park. Perhaps it's the elegance of the narrative and shot construction that makes this film so unshakable. At any rate, you will not forget about these characters and their troubles anytime soon. In fact, they will haunt you for days (and nights) to come.
As is the case with many troubled teen films, All About Lily Chou-Chou deals with teenage sexuality, prostitution, violence, theft, and pop culture. Fourteen year old Yuichi spends the majority of his free time listening to a (fictitious) Bjork-like singer (Lily Chou-Chou), while also moderating an online chat room devoted to that enigmatic pop vocalist. Her music seems to have a transcending effect on Yuichi, elevating him from the nightmarish perils of his middleclass youth. In reality, Yuichi is passive and relatively mute but, when online (under the alias Philia), he's an anonymous hero and the truest Lily-holic.
The film traverses a long period of time. Interestingly, although at first somewhat jarring, we go back and forth (rather symmetrically) through time, which gives us further insight into the identities of the anonymous Lily-lovers and their climactic collision.
The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking throughout, looking like an endless music video (as many sequences include exquisite musical accompaniment). Quentin Tarantino even used one of the film's main tracks in Kill Bill: Volume 1 (see: Hattori Hanzo attic scene). The lush colors and isolated framing are truly poetic and haunting in every sense.
The DVD transfer comes in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Fortunately, the vibrant, supersaturated colors come across very nicely. Darkly lit, night vision-esque sequences also look exceptionally attractive. Unfortunately for us region 1-ers, there seems to be an ever better region 2 transfer (in Dolby 5.1). Here, the audio comes in Japanese Stereo with optional English subtitles. While not a 5.1 mix, the audio is still very acceptable, with perfectly clear music, score, and dialogue.
For such an obscure release, the extras are quite impressive. The main attraction is unquestionably the nearly hour long making-of featurette that takes us through the entire shooting schedule. This is an absorbing doc, highlighting much behind the scenes action, all accompanied by the film's wonderful score. Other extras include a director biography/filmography, clever theatrical trailers, an intriguing music video ("Wings That Can't Fly") and a comprehensive essay by Iwai that explains the inception of the film.
Searching for something diverse and utterly beautiful? Look no further than All About Lily Chou-Chou. Shunji Iwai has created a real marvel of a film, both formally and thematically. Rent it, buy it...just make sure you see it! -- Neil Karassik