A movie studio is being torn down. TV interviewer Genya Tachibana has tracked down its most famous star, Chiyoko Fujiwara, who has been a recluse since she left acting some 30 years ago. Tachibana delivers a key to her, and it causes her to reflect on her career; as she's telling the story, Tachibana and his long-suffering cameraman are drawn in. The key was given to her as a teenager by a painter and revolutionary that she helped to escape the police. She becomes an actress because it will make it possible to track him down, and she spends the next several decades acting out that search in various genres and eras.Written by
Jon Reeves <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The filtering of Chiyoko's life through film history allows the setting, characters, and the visual style of the film to change suddenly. Some of the scenes are reminiscent of Japanese Ukiyo-e woodblock prints, while others evoke Akira Kurosawa movies (particularly Throne of Blood). Satoshi Kon has acknowledged the influence of Throne of Blood, but says that for the most part there are no specific references in his segments. Instead he drew on a vague general impression of the history of Japanese filmmaking and visual art for his different styles and stories; Kon insists that historical film was actually not a subject he had much familiarity with before he made Millennium Actress. He studied the settings and costumes carefully, however, and learned a lot in the making of the film, such as the history of the kimono. See more »
If the space mission spoken of in the film is the Apollo 11 mission, then the launch date should have been July 16, not July 20. See more »
Reprising roles that span a millennium, an actress who longs for her first love re-enacts the drama of affirming her love for him. 'Millennium Actress' puts the theme of unrequited love in a light that is universally encompassing. It is ultimately a story of a pure-hearted character whose loving devotion to one person, innocently conceived and passionately guarded, lends itself sentience and weaves fiction with stark reality of often longing and despair. There is no doubt that this film has left me profoundly impressed.
'Millennium Actress' adopts an esoteric 'film within film' form that is disclosed in flashbacks by the actress, Chiyoko. Her highlights of her cinematography is interwoven with real events of her life, and both fiction and non-fiction aspects of her life adhere to the context of concise Japanese history. Some of these flashbacks at least in their thematic references recur more than once, and variations between them become clever plot devices that lend meaningful depth of time and space to the film.
The recurring and consistently relevant symbols in the flashbacks not only pique the viewer's interest, but also anchor a means to explain the psyche of Chiyoko. Her reaction in each flashback and present to one particular entity is another indication of her perspective on her love, one of many signs of deep implication that enhances the film.
The animation in the film tends to be minimalist except for a few instances where it is cast in significant passage of film (for example running), but the art direction and technique which realize various era of Japanese history and provides a fluid transition between fictional flashbacks to accounts rooted in reality is most elegantly and superbly executed. Character design is accordingly appealing, especially the depiction of Chiyoko through various stages of her life that delineates the same dignity and purity. So much so that it seems almost as if Chiyoko itself transcends to some abstract form of ideal love, only unrequited, and therefore something of great potential but not wasted; since it essentially defies time and space, as allegorically portrayed in her various film roles.
The director Satoshi Kon commented in his interview on his pleasure with the music, which seems to be electronically assembled with a lot of repetition. It sometimes stands out as a bit overbearing and idiosyncratic, yet considering the nature of theme from the film it does not detract from the overall viewing experience.
Only note of letdown, if there is any point to it at all, comes from my personal disdain for a rather melancholy sequence at the end. Yet, a conventional Hollywood resolution would not apply here. As a footnote to my rambling, and for which I must apologize, I should add that 'till death do us part' could not be more opposite of what this film professes.
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