All About Lily Chou-Chou

dir. Iwai

Fri-Sun, Sept 27-29

Guild Theater

One aspect of pop culture that draws a clear line between Generation X and Generation Y is the proliferation of the online journal--the posting on the internet of one's innermost thoughts for all to see. While the online journal is a staple of socialization for many Gen-Yers, most Gen-Xers, who came of age before the internet even became a household word, think it's weird and socially moronic. While they're probably right, the fact is, teenagers are forever lonely, and this new medium is a way for them to feel like they're connecting with people. (In our increasingly disconnected, technology-based society, blah blah blah.)

This is at the crux of All About Lily Chou-Chou, an incredible Japanese film by director Shunji Iwai. A completely depressing, yet beautifully made look at teen life in small-town Japan, Lily Chou-Chou takes place both in "reality reality" and in "internet reality." By exhibiting actual typing across the screen through much of the movie, the film gives a distinct sense of how the internet bleeds into daily life and, ultimately, emotion.

Hayato Ichihara plays Yuichi Hasumi. He's a 14-year-old boy who runs an internet fan site for his favorite musician, Lily Chou Chou; Lily's music is his only escape from his dismal existence. Gifted but misguided, Yuichi runs with a nihilistic teen gang at his school. Led by the handsome, intelligent Hoshino, the group of boys starts out by shoplifting CDs from local record stores, to humiliating each other in an emotionally harrowing method of hazing, to robbing men at gunpoint and pimping out girls their same age. Increasingly, as the intensity at his school life builds (parents, of course, are mostly absent in this movie), Yuichi spends more and more time at the Lily chatroom, talking to other fans about his perpetual alienation and, ultimately, utter desperation.

The most obvious American comparison would be Kids, but Lily Chou-Chou approaches teen disenfranchisement with a more delicate, melancholic eye. While it's not uncommon to see gnarly violence and teen exploitation in Japanese films (Battle Royale, anyone?), Lily's landscape of misguided, neglected, confused teens is actually realistic. And it's fucking bleak.