Wednesday, September 12, 2012

CinDi 2012: Lilou's Adventure (Lilou No Boken, Japan) 2012

Part of MKC's Coverage of the 6th Cinema Digital Seoul Film Festival.

The world of cinema is one we often use to reflect upon ourselves, one where our deepest desires and our darkest impulses are laid bare. Filmmakers habitually use the medium to explore the different facets of our personality but also to ask questions. Good cinema is almost always inquisitive and the further we delve inwards the less concrete our footing becomes. The land of dreams and of the subconscious has been a domain of choice for artists since time immemorial. Through paintings, poetry, books, performance art and more, our unknowable mental projections have maddened and gladdened artistic minds.

Cinema, perhaps more than any other medium, is an ideal canvas for exploring the nebulous impressions we constitute around our internal and uncontrollable visions. From an aesthetic standpoint it is both visual and auditory and yet much is still arrived at through interpretation. However, dreams, which are non-linear by design, are oftentimes difficult to narrativize and their depiction on screen, when not handled carefully, can sound the death bell of a production. Sometimes, these representations of our inner thoughts are best appreciated as sensory experiences, gleaning meaning from them is often a fool’s errand. Yet in rare circumstances, a filmmaker has been able to apply dream logic to a workable plot structure. The most clear example of this, though a divisive one, is David Lynch’s Mullholland Drive (2001). It’s a classic Hollywood narrative that has been broken down and reassembled through dream logic, though it took at least four tries for me to come to that conclusion.

Lilou’s Adventure is the second feature from Kumusaka Izuru, whose debut work Park and Love Hotel picked up the Best First Feature award at the 2007 Berlin International Film Festival. The protagonist, Lilou, is a half-Japanese, half-Guinean child who fears that she has lost her ability to smile. Meanwhile she notices that a classmate, who was once never without a grin on her face, seems to have lost her pep. It turns out that she fears that she is no longer able to dream and then, as they both try to recapture these defining elements of their identities, they wander into a bizarre world where time and space no longer follow the natural order of things.

Kumusaka’s film attempts to be many things. At times, it is a colorful and impressionistic child’s fable that recounts its youthful protagonist’s adventures but it is just as often grounded by the patriarchal order of its setting. In these instances the feature, or at the least the filmmaker, can seem almost crestfallen before picking up and becoming charged with idealistic aspirations for a future and less parochial Japan.

Lilou’s Adventure is a charming little film, not least because of its novice child cast who bring a sense innocence to the proceedings that could not be fabricated. However, like many films before it, as it burrows deeper into fancifulness, and becomes a fragmented dreamscape, it loses its identity and its meaning becomes obfuscated. I thoroughly enjoyed Kumusaka’s film but was left wanting by its conclusion. Perhaps for his next effort he might take a page from Lynch's book to seek out a better balance between a cohesive narrative and impressionistic musings.


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