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Wolfville, Nova Scotia


All About Lily Chou-Chou

Chris Campbell

All About Lily Chou-ChouOne of my favourite films that I saw in 2002 was All About Lily Chou-Chou, which I saw at the Atlantic Film Festival. It was released on DVD a few weeks ago and I thought that I'd be able to get it somewhere. But it appeared that nobody had heard of it and it wasn't even listed in a lot of catalogues of the stores. But I was able to find it on Amazon, but I wanted to rent it. Then I decided to finally sign up for the DVD rental-by-mail service when I was able to find All About Lily Chou-Chou. So I signed up and was able to watch it again.
Sometimes when you see a film the situation or time or place or mood can heavily influence how you respond to it. I loved the film even more the second time I saw it. It's a sometimes intense and powerful drama from Japan that is built around a group of 14-year old schoolchildren who share a common interest in a fictional pop star named Lily Chou-Chou. We see the daily lives of the teenagers and see their postings to the fan site. Seeing it a second time was a bit easier as I could follow things more. The text from the chat is superimposed over the images at times and reading the subtitles means that you need to pay close attention. It's a gorgeous film shot on video with a range of different styles and a quirky, somewhat rambling rhythm that takes a while to get used to. But it's probably following the pacing and structure of a chat room or discussion board and it worked for me.
I think that writer/director Shunji Iwai perfectly captured teen angst and the sense of community and belonging that exists in various fan and online communities. Being 14 isn't easy and the awkwardness is set against beautiful landscapes and light-filled rooms. Haunting, understated and enigmatic, the film stays with me.
The process and story behind the film is fascinating as well. Iwai first began telling the story through a BBS called Lilyholic where postings began to tell the story. The BBS was open and others could post which meant that they were participating as well. The story was told and later the film was made of the story. Maybe the interactive nature and particpation of many people in the online version enhanced the film. It was a unique process to follow and it resulted in one of my favourite films.
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