Posted on 8/07/09 01:44 PM
One of the most beautiful films of recent times is Millennium Actress, a Japanese animation from Satoshi Kon, who previously made the brutal, disturbing and just plain bizarre Perfect Blue. While both films centre on actresses Millennium Actress is very different from its predecessor. For one it is a film that can be seen by and cherished by everyone. From children to old folks, the film can capture the viewer with its enchanting magic. The film tells a simple, potent story: as an old film studio is torn down, two documentary filmmakers interview its most famous star, a retired actress named Chiyoko, about her life and career. As she tells her story it quickly becomes clear that the most important part of her life was not her film career but her epic journey to find her missing love and return to him the key to "what is most important." The way in which this story is told and the imagination and storytelling bravado that brings it to life is what makes this film stand out. As Chiyoko tells her story, the interviewers - and we the audience - are swept up in her story as it parallels with the films she stars in. This device may take a while to get used to but once you do it is hard not to be impressed with the fluidity with which the narrative moves from scene to scene, from era to era. The film runs a brisk 83 minutes and tells a story spanning one thousands years starting with Feudal Japan to space several centuries in the future. Covering this length of time in 83 minutes seems like a tough task but the film-makers do an exquisite job of covering the main points Japanese history and connecting them to Chiyoko's journey. There is a montage in the middle of the film that spans centuries that is particularly breath-taking. Another feature of Millennium Actress that can be enjoyed by anyone with even a passing interest in Japanese cinema is the films reference to it. The thousand year storyline is confined to one hundred years of Japanese cinema. From period pictures (with direct references to Akira Kurosawa's Throne of Blood) to samurai flicks, from monster movies to 1950's social dramas Millenium Actress presents a tribute to this distinct cinema culture as lovingly created as the glorious posters of old (fictional) films that populate the world.