I watched April Story and All About Lily Chou Chou today. Both are live action film by Shunji Iwai. His only(?) connection with anime is that he’s a friend with Hideki Anno. The reason I know about “All About Lily Chou Chou” is because of a comment made on this very blog 2 years ago. I did promise in my response that I would check it out and since then, even though it’s 2 years too late, I guess I have fulfilled that promise.

But first, April Story.

April Story is this simple story about an awkward university student from Okinawa Hokkaido. The reason she left Hokkaido and went to a Tokyo University is to meet the senior she likes during high school. We will then get to see how she copes with her new life while being being awkwardly cute. She met a lot of characters along the way but all these characters are kinda just there. They were introduced then dropped off like flies after they were used to advance the plot. That’s kinda reflects how real life meetings truly are.

The portrayal of that awkward feeling of entering and experiencing something new are also very realistic. I am as awkward as her when I meet new people.

Even though it seems like April Story is striving for realism, ultimately, the whole motivation of the character is still puppy love stuff . Very naive, pure and idealistic. I can also see how people can interpret this movie as sexist since the whole motivation of our main character is driven by a boy. I am not so bother by it because I interpret it as pure and idealistic teenage romance. Some naive and idealistic shit is good for your soul if you don’t truly believe in it.

Ultimately, it’s not a film that I would recommend. It’s too quiet and uneventful. It’s also not far-fetched to say that this film is really about nothing. Honestly, nothing dramatic or eventful really happen. It’s just pathos and gayish sentimental fluff. I like it because it works on such personal level. I can’t see it working for everyone though.

All in all, I came out of the film feeling pleasant and hopeful and stupidly wanting to see more of this idealistic character and her idealistic view on romance.

Side note: Sometimes, I also can’t help but think that the whole point of the movie is to shoot these beautiful shots and show you how cute Takako Matsu is. If that’s really the case then Shunji Iwai definitely succeeded because Takako Matsu is really cute. I can see the audience falling in love with her character. She’s the ultimate moe character. Actually come to think of it, it’s truly the ultimate and most effective moe film out there, surpassing all the moe anime. Now I guess I understand moe because I definitely got moe-ed by April Story.

Oh, and I love the custom made Samurai film, the execution and emulation of that film is to the point and awesome.

Now, All About Lily Chou Chou is whole other matter all together.  It’s the anti thesis of April Story. It’s all about fuck up stuff and teenage angst. Its atmosphere is foreboding and just outright bleak. The whole story doesn’t make a lot of sense if you lay it down but the unrelenting view of the film is just so dark and subdue, you can’t help but think that there are something deeper and believable behind all these seemly confusing character’s personality change.

Whether or not if theres’ really something other than the obvious elements of bullying, teenage prostitution, escapism, rape, misunderstanding adults and teenage angst is highly debatable. Roger Ebert thinks that’s it’s just pretentious fluff. I, on the other end, am on the fence on this.

I can’t tell you whether there’s more subtext to this movie but the experience I got from this film can be described as transcendent. I can’t take my eyes off this movie even though I don’t quite comprehend what’s it trying to say because the mood of the film felt foreboding and melancholic. In other words, I don’t feel like I am watching a film as it felt more like an experience.

I need to let it simmer down and think more about it before I can conclude my feeling about Lily Chou Chou. I think I like it but I am not really sure since I just came out of the film 5 mins ago.