All About Lily Chou-Chou. Shunji Iwai. Written and directed by Iwai and ravishingly shot on high-definition video by Noboru Shinoda, this intensely moody drama centers on a withdrawn, androgynous, seemingly gentle schoolboy (Hayato Ichihara) who is obsessed with a pop singer (the Lily Chou-Chou of the title) and communicates with other fans on the Internet. But appearances are deceiving; our hero isn't quite as withdrawn as he first appears, and, as we gradually learn, he is embroiled with other schoolboys in petty theft, gang fighting, prostitution and even murder. Although this has the makings of melodrama, the filmmaker cuts against this natural grain, producing a work that's more interested in asking questions than in answering them. In some ways Iwai covers much of the same ground Nagisa Oshima did 34 years ago in Diary of a Shinkjuku Thief. But there's an eerie coolness to this film that's quite unsettling and un-Oshima-like. Rather lengthy, it requires patience. But adventurous moviegoers aren't likely to mind. Plays at 8 p.m. September 6-8 at Webster University. (DE)
City by the Sea. Michael Caton-Jones. Opens September 6 at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Happy Times. Zhang Yimou. Opens September 6 at the Tivoli. Reviewed this issue.
Snipes. Rich Murray. Although its official premiere is slated for the prestigious Toronto Film Festival next week, we've got Nelly on our side, and because his name appears above the title in the ads, Snipes kicks off its run in St. Louis. This is Nelly's acting debut, and he stars as, guess what, a rapper from, uh, Philadelphia. His character, Prolifik, is hot in Philly and has potential to go big-time. Erik Triggs (Sam Jones III) sees this, and as the city's busiest sniper (slang for a member of a street team responsible for plastering promo posters all over the city) he's got an insider's view of the rap industry. What he sees ain't good, and when a conspiracy reveals itself, it's up to Triggs and Prolifik to resolve it. Now playing at multiple locations. NR
Swimfan. Jason Pulson. High-school hunk Ben Cronin is a hot swimmer on the way to an athletic scholarship; he's the king of his domain, and he works for it. He's also got a sexy girlfriend, and all seems to be going along a solid, predetermined path. That is, until Madison Bell, the new-girl temptress, arrives to add a dose of danger to the storyline. She's crazy, and she directs her obsessions at Ben. Is there murder in the deep end? Opens September 6 at multiple locations. NR