Satoshi Kon’s “Millennium Actress” has become one of the most celebrated animation masterpieces of all time, and for good reason. It’s managed to transcend everything about its medium to convey a tale that everyone can relate to. A big departure from “Perfect Blue,” his grim polemic about fandom, Kon gifts us “Millennium Actress,” a film that is a great and often riveting celebration about life.
After the legendary Ginei Studios shuts down, filmmaker Genya Tachibana and his assistant are tasked with interviewing its reclusive star, Chiyoko Fujiwara. After retiring from the spotlight 30 years prior, she re-emerges for an interview for the pair. As she recounts her career, Genya and his crew are literally pulled into her memories where they witness her chance encounter with a mysterious man on the run from the police. Despite never knowing his name or his face, Chiyoko relentlessly pursues that man while experiencing a life changing war, romance, and her own ambitious pursuits.
The sadness, the excitement, the surprises, the happy and sad endings, “Millennium Actress” uses its narrative frame work to depict a poetic and beautiful exploration of the lives we live. Kon finds a special kind of magic within the experience of life, delving in to how we’re all characters in our own epic tale, and how we can often play characters. Kon parallels filmmaking with journey of life, and perfectly exercises the element of surrealism that enhances Chiyoko’s tale. While “Millennium Actress” is about one particular woman, Satoshi Kon means to speak to the entire audience.
Many of whom might find a value in the overarching message about adventures we’re taking, and how it can define us, make us, and probably break us in the long run. Kon’s style and sense of blurring fantasy and reality could be incredibly distracting, but it’s seamless and often charming with “Millennium Actress.” If you’ve yet to find “Millennium Actress” it really is a wonderful, timeless celebration of the journeys we take in life, and deserves every bit of praised heaped upon it.
Along with the Blu-Ray and DVD, there are a slew of interesting new interviews about the re-release. There’s a seven minute engaging interview with Abby Trott, the voice-actress of young Chiyoko for the English-language dub adaptation. She discusses what drew her to the film, how she would describe the character of Chiyoko, what she enjoys about the character, her interpretation of what the key represents for Chiyoko, her view on the witch’s curse, and much more. There’s a twenty minute interview with Laura Post, the voice-actress for Eiko in the English language dub version, who discusses what she finds most compelling about Eiko, what she views as significant about the character, how she personally relates to the character, and what her views are on the story behind Millennium Actress, et al.
This is yet another engaging and fascinating interview. There’s a thirty two minute interview with producer Masao Maruyama, who gives the most entertaining, absorbing interview of the bunch, as he delves into so much detail about the production. He discusses thoughts regarding the re-release of the film (including its special North America theatrical engagement), his memories of working on the film (and what working with director Satoshi Kon on this and other projects was like for him), what the concept was originally, what he found unique about director Satoshi Kon (before his untimely passing), and more. He also discusses the shift in the animation industry towards CG art and what he feels this means for the industry at large.
This is a must for fans of the film and animation. Finally, there’s an eight minute interview with producer Taro Maki, yet another engaging piece which delves into the restoration of the film (including its 4K scan), his memories of working on Millennium Actress, how was the storyline was created, what continues to make the film special and why it appeals to so many anime fans, and the brilliance of director Kon. Maki offers his great memories and insights into the development of the film. It’s a great closer.