All About Lily Chou-Chou

I haven’t actually seen this Japanese film about Japanese teenagers, their troubled life in high school and their fascinations with pop culture, but what I’ve heard of it so far makes it sound very interesting.

You are, quite likely familiar with the hype that surrounded and propelled the film “the Blair Witch Project” to fame and fortune in 1999. By deftly producing and inserting an urban legend of disappearing teenagers into the world wide web, the directors managed to generate the belief that the film was a genuine documentation of their disappearance. The three main actors were even listed as “missing, presumed dead” on various internet film sites.

In All About Lily Chou-Chou, Japanese film director Shunji Iwai, reversed the process and created a web page for a fictive pop idol – Lily – and included discussion boards that were suitably seeded with messages. He used the the resulting discussions to shape the film, and a lot of the dialog from the discussion boards apparently appears in the film.

Interestingly enough, as it often happens with fictional characters, they continue to lead a life of their own. Lily now has several albums to her name, and a guest appearance on the soundtrack to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 (though it isn’t actually on the soundtrack CD..).

It is not even the first time that an entirely fictional character has topped the Japanese charts. Back in 1996, the Japanese media company Hori Pro introduced the computer animated cyber girl, Kyoko Date who went on to have a few hits with some typically nasty Nippo-pop.

Lily’s music, on the other hand, is reminiscent of Björk, and is to fair extent based on the piano music of Claude Debussy. There is, of course, a real person behind the voice of Lily, a Japanese chanteuse named Salyu.

I find this kind of fictionalising quite fascinating, it makes it possible to create stories on a meta-level that mixes fact and fiction, real and unreal in new ways. It reminds me of the playful messing-with-the-heads-of-the-readers that Jorge Luis Borges enjoyed.

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