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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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All About Lily Chou-Chou

Chris Campbell

One of the challenges of a film festival is trying to pick out what film to see when there are two films playing at the same time. On the Thursday of the Atlantic Film Festival I went to three industry events that took up the whole day. Then I really wanted to see a film and the choice I had to make was between David Cronenberg's "Spider" or Shunji Iwai's "All About Lily Chou-Chou" ("Riri Shushu no subete"). I figure that I will be able to see "Spider" either in the theatre or on DVD so I went for the Japanese film. A gorgeous, ambitious film that combines music, chat, and teen angst together in a series of interlocking lives and stories built around students in Japan. The film is visually stunning with the best approximation of the intimate (but obliquely anonymous) connection that chatting via text provides. The official Web site provides a good approximation of the technique that is used with the text chat. While the film is long (2 1/2 hours) it develops a distinctive rhythm that is at times hypnotic. Images and stories from the film are haunting...and I'm still thinking about parts of the film over a week later. From the site I found out more and it makes the film even more fascinating. It grew out of another (uncompleted) film about a Hong Kong pop singer which then evolved into an online novel built with people over the Web via a BBS. A serialized electronic novel changed as Iwai posted under various names to the BBS and interacted with and incorporated into the novel which was finally serialized in a magazine over three months. Then Iwai wrote the screenplay and decided to shoot the film with a 24p (progressive scan) video camera. I would have swore that the film was originated on film stock, but it is an example of the gorgeous images that are possible now with high-end video. But in a lot of ways the technology doesn't matter. It's an amazing film that I'm very glad that I've seen.