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Film / All About Lily Chou-Chou

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"For me, only the Ether is the proof I'm alive. But lately, my Ether is running out"

<<The Ether heals my pain>>
(From: Dream Child)

A 2001 film directed by Shunji Iwai, based on an online novel he wrote, that revolves around the friendship between Yuichi Hasumi and Shunsuke Hoshino. Two rather timid boys in middle school who are regularly confronted with bullying. The two boys nonetheless become fast friends and bonds over their love for "Lily Chou-Chou"——an ethereal singer who was born at the exact same time when Mark David Chapman killed John Lennon——in which Yuichi is a passionate fan as Lily's music provides an escape from his miserable life, through the 'Ether' that her music releases. He and Hoshino frequently corresponds on a fansite called Lilyphilia.

However, this changes after a fated summer vacation in which Hoshino almost drowns. From then on, he's no longer the same and the friendship between the two is changed forever.

This film is unique for the integration of chatroom texts with the plot. Events of the film is often recounted in brief, which often followed with the poster's attempt to relate said event with Lily's music. This film is told by posts from two users: philia (site manager of Lilyphilia) and Blue Cat, which are the two main characters. Until the climax of the film, it is left to interpretation on which user is Hoshino or Yuichi.

In 2003, Quentin Tarantino used Lily's song, "Wounds That Heal" as a part of the soundtrack of Kill Bill, and in 2021, Mitski covered "Glide" as a part of the soundtrack of the film After Yang.

<<This film provides examples of>> (From: TvTropes):

  • Absurdly Youthful Mother: Hoshino's mother, to the point where Yuichi mistakes her as Hoshino's sister.
  • Adults Are Useless: None of the adult characters actually help them, or even aware about the horrifying events happening to the teens, with an exception of their teacher, who helped Yuichi after he got caught shoplifting. Yuichi's own mother doesn't notice a thing.
  • Anachronic Order: The film starts during present day, then it flashes back to events from Hoshino and Yuichi's pasts which leads up to the present day.
  • Audience Participation: The original online novel was written in a forum website in the form of posts, similar to the style of the posts in this film. The original novel's format allowed readers to openly discuss about Lily In-Universe matter. Most of these posts were later lifted to the film as posts written by Lilyphilia users.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Tsuda and Hoshino are dead and Yuichi's grades are pathetic, but at least Kuno seems to be bouncing back from her trauma as Yuichi wordlessly watches her play piano.
  • Blackmail: Hoshino took dirty videos of Tsuda and used them as leverage to force her into prostitution.
  • Breakup Breakout: In-universe, Lily Chou-Chou reached considerable success in her solo career more than her forays in her band, Philia.
  • Break the Cutie: All of the characters started as good-natured people broken down by all the horrifying events of this film.
    • Yuichi starts a quiet, shy boy who gets roped into Hoshino's gang after the latter's Start of Darkness, performing dark and humiliating work such as accompanying Tsuda on her escort assignments and being complicit in the attack and gang rape of Kuno, his crush.
    • Hoshino started as a keen academic and kind, normal student known as something of a wimp, but his parents' divorce and a couple of near-death experiences in Okinawa and a disturbing incident involving a man who later commits suicide turns him into a violent, manipulative sadist.
    • Tsuda is a fourteen-year-old girl forced to escort for Hoshino. Despite feeling trapped, she goes along with it because she has no other choice, eventually resigning herself to having no escape and getting used to her job. Her experience with flying kites shows she's still an innocent girl at heart which makes her subsequent suicide all the more tragic.
    • Kuno is a normal girl and talented musician bullied for no other reason than her being more attractive and popular with boys than the aggressive Girl Posse. She's eventually bullied out of performing in the school recital due to their boycott of her and when they learn she composed the song, they have her attacked, which leads to Hoshino ordering a gang rape of her and her head shaved.
  • Cathartic Scream: Hoshino in the rice field, following Tsuda's suicide.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Yuichi's friends comments that Hoshino's attractive mother looks very much like actress Izumi Inamori. Guess who plays her.
  • Children Are Innocent: While this movie horribly averts this trope, the characters are shown as still having a little bit of innocence, such as Tsuda innocently and happily enjoying flying a kite as a final good memory before she commits suicide.
  • Defiled Forever: After Yuichi's friend confesses his love for Tsuda, she turns him down, casually stating that she's not good enough for him due to her experiences.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Yuichi eventually takes revenge by stabbing Hoshino at Lily's concert venue.
  • Driven to Suicide: Tsuda eventually commits suicide near the end of the film, feeling trapped by Hoshino. Additionally, philia and Blue Cat expressed their suicidal thoughts in the website.
  • Enjo Kosai: Hoshino eventually blackmails Tsuda into becoming this under his 'payroll'. Later she sees nothing wrong with her 'job' as it pays well. At one point she even stole her client's wallet.
  • Extreme Doormat: Yuichi is so powerless under Hoshino's thumb that he does anything for him: escorting Tsuda to her "assignments," leading his crush to her attack and gang rape, even pathetically giving Hoshino his ticket to Lily's concert before running an errand for him. He does stand up to him in the end... Violently.
  • Fake Band: Lily Chou-Chou. Before she had gone solo, she was in a band called Philia.
  • Genre Roulette: The genre of Lily's music can be quite tricky to qualify. Her music ranges from J-Pop ("Breathe") to Ambient ("Arabesque") to dream pop ("Manic And Depressive").
  • Good Bad Girl: Tsuda.
  • From Bad to Worse: The events that followed after Hoshino nearly drowns in Okinawa.
  • Homage: The song "Arabesque" is a homage to Debussy's Arabesque.
  • Hopeless Suitor: Yuichi has had a crush on Kuno for years after she introduced him to Lily, but he's hopeless about making any progress with her.
  • Important Haircut: Kuno shows up in class with her hair crudely shaved off after getting gang-raped.
  • Jitter Cam: Some scenes are filmed with a hand-held camera, complete with Camera Abuse, similar to the style of Dogme '95. Hoshino's trip to Okinawa are filmed in this style to evoke a 'travel log' feel.
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Subverted. Hoshino is initially this during the first year, until later when someone revealed to Yuichi that Hoshino's parents are divorcing as their business crumbles.
  • Loony Fan: An overzealous Lily 'fan' attacks someone for not liking her works before her solo career during her concert.
  • Meaningful Name: Played with. Early in the film Yuichi's parents considered changing the first name of Yuichi's younger brother "Shin-ichi" to "Shin-ji", as "-ichi" meant 'first child'.
    • "Chou-chou" was the nickname Claude Debussy (which Lily hails as the first musician to have 'Ether') gave to his daughter.
  • Misblamed: In-universe, some of Lily's fans blame Kamakatsu, the leader of Philia, for wasting Lily's talents and getting in her solo career after the breakup.invoked
  • Near-Death Experience: Hoshino during his trip to Okinawa, twice. First he's narrowly killed by a dangerous species of flying fish, and then the next day, he nearly drowns. Needless to say, the trip has a profound effect on him.
  • Number Two: Yuichi is forced to become this to Hoshino, handling his "work," which includes keeping an eye at Tsuda's 'job' and helping Hoshino arrange Kuno's gang rape.
  • Rape as Drama: Hoshino orders his gang to rape Kuno after learning that she unknowingly offended the Girl Posse.
  • The Reveal: At the concert, Yuichi discovers that Hoshino is Blue Cat, who is trying to meet up with "philia," Yuichi's own username. Yuichi doesn't reveal his own identity.
  • Scenery Porn: The paddy rice fields where Yuichi listens to Lily in the opening. Also in the credits with Hoshino and Tsuda. One of the forum comments even mentions it's the last beautiful place in the world.
  • Shout-Out: "the world has turned into grey".
    • The Beatles and Björk are mentioned by members of Lilyphilia during a discussion of Lily's music.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: All the guys think Kuno is hot, though she doesn't seem interested in their attention; but her popularity with boys is nevertheless why the Girl Posse bullies her so badly.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Debussy's quiet piano pieces play over such scenes as a gang rape.
  • Stacy's Mom: The boys who meet Hoshino's mom all tend to agree that she's really pretty.
  • Start of Darkness: Hoshino, a formerly kind and quiet student, after his Near-Death Experience. Complete with Took a Level in Jerkass.
  • Teens Are Monsters: And how. All of the horrifying acts in the film — brutal and sadistic bullying, blackmail, forced prostitution, gang rape, murder — are all committed by kids younger than sixteen.
  • Truth in Television: Unfortunately, much of the cruelty that Yuichi and Hoshino endure are frighteningly common in Japanese schools.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Despite everything Yuichi does for Hoshino — and it's a lot — Hoshino steals his ticket (with better seating) at Lily's concert and rips up the other one. This is after Yuichi left the line for him to run an errand. After all the events of the movie, this finally motivates Yuichi to kill Hoshino.
  • The Unreveal: The "Ether" that fans of Lily frequently talks about was never really explained.
  • The Unseen: Lily Chou-Chou. The closest thing audience will get is a music video that Yuichi sees on a large screen at the end of the film.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Yuichi and Hoshino after the latter Took a Level in Jerkass by becoming the class bully. Hoshino also sent his boys to torment Yuichi, as shown in the beginning.

<<The things you hold dear, friends, family, lovers will hurt you the most>>
(From: Les Paul)