Yuichi is in the 8th grade and worships Lily Chou-Chou, a Bjork-like chanteuse whose music is lush and transcendent – the perfect tool to escape the pain and anxiety that fills his brutal life in Japan. At home, Yuichi rarely leaves his room, spending all his time in the chat room of Lily Chou-Chou’s fan website, but little by little, the reality of Yuichi’s offline life becomes unbearable when he is ensnared in a nightmare of teenage prostitution, petty theft, and possible murder. A hauntingly poetic story in the vein of Battle Royale, All About Lily Chou-Chou is a disturbing look at the terror and isolation that characterizes today’s youth of Japan.
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The pain and suffering of junior high is always good movie fodder, and in All About Lily Chou-Chou the topic gets an unfamiliar and moody airing. Director Shunji Iwai takes a discursive, sometimes baffling look into the life of a bullied kid whose misery is broken by his worship of a pop star, Lily Chou-Chou. Internet chat room exchanges punctuate the film's narrative, as Yuichi and his anonymous Lily-philes share their intoxication with the "Ether"--the mystery of life that Lily's voice somehow illuminates. The film's style (and length) offer little in the way of traditional movie-watching pleasure, and the mystifying storytelling will have some viewers giving up in exasperation. Still, the portrait of adolescent loneliness rings true, and the ferocity of school bullying is laid bare. On the latter subject, this film is a little like the kill-or-be-killed apocalypse of Battle Royale, without the fantasy overlay. --Robert Horton
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