Short movie time: Idol (2020)


Ryushi Lindsay is a British-Japanese filmmaker based in Tokyo as well as in the UK. While he has already made various experimental non-fiction documentary films, e.g. Kokutai (2019), with Idol he presents his first fiction narrative.


One day, manager Yoshimura (Akira Takanohashi) barges into the room where Kasumi (Miyu Sasaki) and her mother Miyabi (Ryoka Neya) are preparing for the coming show. He introduces Ami and tells Kasumi that her daughter is, with immediate effect, replaced by Ami (Sawa Takahashi). Miyabi, who has been counting on her daughter for her income, cannot accept Yoshimura’s sudden decision.   

Idol (2020) by Ryushi Lindsay

Idol is a narrative that not only touches upon the child-idol phenomenon, but also explores the dynamic between mother and the child/idol. Both aspects are, with great clarity, introduced in the opening of the narrative. The opening of Idol reveals, first and foremost, that the idol is but a mere vehicle for profit. Lindsay, furthermore, shows how the idol is but an image and that, because the idol is an image, its corporeal support is highly exchangeable. In other words, for the manager, the only thing that matters is that the children that he allows to assume this idol-image make him money – now and in the future.

The exploration of the dynamic between mother and child revolves around the question whether the child has assumed a desire for this idol-position herself or if she, to secure the love of her mother, performs the mother’s desire – the mother’s statement “we need this” might very well be an “I need this”. While the desire of the subject always comes from the Other, there is difference in assuming this desire as a subjective desire or going along with the desire of the (m)Other to secure the love of this (m)other.

Idol (2020) by Ryushi Lindsay

That the latter might be the case – i.e. the child is performing for the mother – is underlined by various narrative elements, like the Kasumi’s mother’s statement about having trouble paying the bills if Kasumi is not on stage as well as the way she deals with her daughter asking for ice-cream, which is the sign of her mother’s love. While this financial revelation reveals the importance of the mother’s desire as well as the unimportance of the child’s desire, her statement also reveals the subtle perverse element that marks her comportment: her child is, just like for the manager, a vehicle to earn money – irrespective of Kasumi’s own desire to perform, she needs to perform to earn money for her mother.  

The composition of Idol has, due to the subtle documentary-styled shakiness that marks the ‘static’ shots and the dynamic shots, a pleasing naturalness. This cinematographical naturalness gives the fictitious narrative an engaging believability and strengthens the truth(s) Lindsay wants to evoke with Idol. What further heightens the realism is the, of course, the natural colour-design.

Idol (2020) by Ryushi Lindsay

What makes Ryushi Lindsay’s Idol so beautiful is that in 20 minutes he succeeds in uncovering the ugly truth of the idol business – that the idol is but an image and that the real body to support that image can easily be exchanged – as well as highlight how mothers can, by abusively playing with the dimension of love, to do their child to do their bidding. Lindsay tells truths we need to hear and delivers them in an understated but visually pleasing way. Ryushi Lindsay, we look forward to your future work.


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