Shunji Iwai’s Lily Chou-Chou offers eternal peace. She’s ethereal, the rebirth of death (indeed, she was born the moment Mark David Chapman shot and killed John Lennon), and all-powerful, a voice for a pop-cyber culture that feeds on her Björkness. In All About Lily Chou-Chou, fans of the fictional singer use her “amniotic” music to detach themselves from the violence that consumes Japanese culture. Yuichi (Hayato Ichihara) is obsessed with Lily: He gets busted for shoplifting one of her CDs and engages in endless conversations on the website Liliphilia with fellow Lily-heads, “connecting” with the so-called ether that is Lily, just like he melds into colorful rice fields whenever he listens to Lily sing. While Yuichi is quiet and reserved, his online handle (“philia”) suggests a boy erupting with adult emotions, and though his friendship with “blue cat” is elusive it still feels within reach. Such is the dreaminess and possibility the film taps into. A Lily concert, though, manages to shake Yuichi’s already troubled existence. A year earlier, when Yuichi had yet to discover Lily, a trip to Okinawa almost ended in tragedy; the island is restful, a place where man was made of woman’s rib (hence the power of the island’s women). The Okinawa scenes suggest the hope and purity of freedom, because there’s no real concept of revenge and humiliation on the island. Then, a disruption: Soon after Yuichi is rescued from a near-drowning, a car strikes a local man. It’s 2000 and Yuichi is forced into a life of petty crime in order to raise money for an aggressive bully, Hoshino (Shugo Oshinari), and by film’s end, he morphs from huntee to hunter. Iwai gracefully conveys even rape and murder, and the too-precious All About Lily Chou-Chou retreats into an ether far more suffocating than Lily’s music, and though he is tiresomely and needlessly distracted by cutaways to instant message exchanges between online Lily fans, his near-operatic attention to the constructs of sound and image becomes a disarming compliment to the deadly fears his characters must negotiate.
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