Lily Chou Chou’s music is perceived as mystical, dark and a medium that perturbs. In Lily’s musical universe, the listener participates in an “ether”; an energy that represents the purity of Lily’s art.
The story is primarily told through ages thirteen to fifteen of Yûichi Masumi's (Hayato Ichihara) youth. The events are strongly anchored through the actions of Shusuke Hoshino (Shûgo Oshinari) which affects his circle of friends and acquaintances.
The film follows a group of youths who are tormented by the pain of understanding the world that slowly consumes their innocence. In this journey, nobody can understand their actions, not even themselves. Therefore, the audiences cannot be faulted for incomprehension. The troubled protagonists feel that through Lily’s music that their pain is truly represented. All about Lily Chou Chou is inevitably all about the complex emotions of Masumi and Hoshino.
Shunji Iwai brought to consciousness, the hidden agenda of an individual’s thoughts. Interestingly, by utilizing the same technique of text presentation from the silent era, Iwai was able to create a fresh perspective in his storytelling. Accompanied by the sounds of typing, the texts that appear on screen are intimate blog/email exchanges between strangers who feel closer to one another through Lily’s music.
This intimacy isn’t present through any human interactions. The characters are mostly cynical and obnoxious towards each other while those that are pure ineluctably become affected. Through these descriptions, there is a definite air of melancholy that lurks in All about Lily Chou Chou.
To echo the convolution that lingers in its characters, All about Lily Chou Chou opted for a disjointed structure. The film begins with the present, then the events that took place before, and after, seamlessly returning back to the present again without warning. However, story cues and beats are sufficient to transport the audiences back and forth. This film definitely calls for the full attention from a viewer.
Just like the phase of delinquency, one cannot seek reason or resolutions to the troubles of youth. Maybe this is the “ether” that Iwai has created; A realm that cannot be questioned by logic. This universe might not be ideal for all audiences, but in order to escape this universe, the unthinkable must be committed and Iwai has definitely provided that in All about Lily Chou Chou.
This “ether” created by Iwai allowed him to go full throttle with his Music Video background. His fearless execution of style through garish visuals matches the serpentine sentiments of his characters. The film is accompanied with an exemplary soundtrack by “Lily Chou Chou”; a fictitious singer created by Iwai and Japanese musician, Salyu.
All about Lily Chou Chou is a film of capricious nature but one that stands alone by itself. Just like the characters’ reactions to the music of Lily in the film, some audiences would be baffled or repulsed by the film while some would be absorbed and become one with the “ether.”