Millennium Actress (Sennen joyû)

Critics Consensus

The story of an aging movie actress' complicated personal saga unfolds in this sophisticated anime film that deftly blurs memory and make-believe into a meditation on the nature of cinema itself.

92%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 52

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 12,898
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Movie Info

Chiyoko Fujiwara was once a major movie star who dominated the Japanese cinema world. Thirty years ago, she abruptly disappeared from the screen and from public view. One of her greatest admirers, Genya Tachibana, is a documentary filmmaker who has traveled to the isolated mountain lodge where she makes her home to interview her. There, he presents her with an old key, and as if the key had opened a door to her memories, Chiyoko starts telling the story of her life, interweaving moments from her past and future and passing through the boundary between reality and the movies that had made up so much of her life.As her story unfolds, Chiyoko seems to transcend time and space, traveling freely through the corridors of fictional movies and reality. Chiyoko was born when the Great Earthquake hit Tokyo in 1923, as war is looming in Imperial Japan. At a very young age, she is discovered as an actress, and soon becomes one of Japan's most popular stars. Over the course of her career, her movies and her roles encompass all the epochs of Japanese history, bringing her and her audience back more than five hundred years, and then moving chronologically through the centuries to the present and beyond. Chiyoko's first major role finds her in the Warring States Period of the 15th and 16th centuries, where we see her as a princess in a burning castle tower. Her movies swiftly carry her into the Edo Period (1603 - 1868), when the Shogun ruled the country. In one moment, she is portraying a ninja fighting against samurais, but another role transforms her into an innocent local girl who confronts a group of elite samurai guards. She runs away, only to find herself being arrested in a scene set against the backdrop of Japan's Meiji Period (1868 - 1912), at the dawn of a new era when the power of the Emperor was restored. Chiyoko escapes, but in her next movie, we find her in the pre-World War II and war-torn decades of the Showa Period (1912 - 1945). As Chiyoko chronicles her life and career, we come to learn that not only was Chiyoko an icon of the Japanese cinema, but her roles also represented feminine icons of Japanese history.Through each role and in every era, Chiyoko has only one wish-to see her first love, an injured artist and painter she had helped escape from government authorities as a girl. Chiyoko risks everything to hide the mysterious stranger in her storage house. Before she can learn his identity and mission, however, he leaves her...but not before he presents her with the all-important key. From that moment on, she determinedly keeps running-in real life, and in her movies-believing that they will meet again and she will learn the true meaning of the key.As her identity changes with each movie role, so does that of her true love. Yet Chiyoko keeps running after him through the passages of time. Wherever she goes, she also must battle her enemies: a man with a scar and a rival actress, both of whom continue to change their appearances according to the time periods and settings of the movies that make up Chiyoko's life.The two filmmakers, Genya Tachibana and his cameraman Kyoji Ida, become so immersed in Chiyoko's story that they are amazed to find themselves actually witnessing the events as she describes them. To the astonishment of his cameraman, Tachibana is not only present, but has become a character in her movies, appearing to rescue her whenever she is in danger. Chiyoko keeps running through the centuries in pursuit of the "love of her life," as if she had lived for 1000 years. In what appears to be her final role, seemingly in the future, she rockets to the moon, leaving us to wonder what adventures await her there. -- (C) Go Fish Pictures

Cast

Miyoko Shôji
as Chiyoko Fujiwara (in her 70s)
Mami Koyama
as Chiyoko Fujiwara (in her 20s-40s)
Fumiko Orikasa
as Chiyoko Fujiwara (in her teens-20s)
Shouzou Iizuka
as Genya Tachibana
Masaya Onosaka
as Kyoji Ida
Shouko Tsuda
as Eiko Shimao
Masatane Tsukayama
as The Man with the Scar
Koichi Yamadera
as The Man of the Key
Hirotaka Suzuoki
as Junichi Ootaki
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Critic Reviews for Millennium Actress (Sennen joyû)

All Critics (52) | Top Critics (17)

Audience Reviews for Millennium Actress (Sennen joyû)

  • Sep 26, 2013
    Animation is dominated by the family friendly market, but animation have also been used to convey more challenging subject matters. Such animated films tackle more complex subjects of war, politics, psychology of a person, and among other that otherwise wouldn't be played down for a family film. Millennium Actress is one of those multi-layered work of animation that will move if you only see the surface, but further analyze everything holds a greater meaning. Millennium Actress follows a TV interviewer and his cameraman meeting a former actress and travel through her memories and career. The film narrative structure covers an entire actress life told in non-linear flashbacks relentless pursuit for her significant other. In writing that story structure does not sound deep, but in execution cover many subjects it touches on. It's as much a character study as it is a an expression on endlessly pursuing idealized desire. Each flashback involves the actress merging real life memories with those in films she starred in. As such seeing her in various characters and costumes, in different genres set in different eras, like the Samurai films, science fiction, romance dramas, and even monster movies to symbolize a human backdrop of desire. Such desires ranges from wanting to make a difference against your government restrictions, the length of protection of something held precious no matter the danger, and the ever need to a fill a gap. These emotions are relatable, but underneath it emotional study lies a subtle showing of the political policy in each era. We experience life through Japanese occupation of Manchuria through the post war era going in hand merging fiction and reality. All these memories are open to interpretation as well as serving in depth characteristic in understanding our main character. You'll analyze everything from her personality, why she think low of herself, and the true significance of her pursuit. Though this one character does touch on many subjects, but sadly secondary characters are reduced to being archetypes. Either comedic relief or explaining everything the secondary characters just disappear into the background with barely anything to contribute outside of their one picked role. The animation is primarily minimal in movement with the only time the animation becomes exaggerated is for significant plot point to be highlighted surrealistically. Art direction and technique varied in bringing different eras of Japanese history together and seamlessly transitioning to one era to another. All the backgrounds are detailed and textured. Character design is accordingly appealing, especially the depiction of protagonist Chiyoko through various stages of her life that delineates dignity and purity. Chiyoko itself transcends to some abstract form of ideal love, only unrequited, and therefore allegorically portrayed in her various film roles. Music is 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. Voice acting is strong whether in its original Japanese recording which has three voice talent for Chiyoko character in her different age or a dubbed version almost matching the Japanese voice talent. Millennium Actress is a alternatively rewarding complex film with a vividly detail art style to go with it. Visually stunning, emotionally gripping, and thoughtfully challenging makes Millennium Actress a true work of genius in animation.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 22, 2012
    Very interesting structure. For some reason, this film reminds me a bit of Citizen Kane, which is obviously a good thing. It works on many levels.
    Hugo S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 16, 2011
    Great concept here. a older man doing a doc, tracks down a former star who he admires greatly, there also being a reason, once story she tells begins, about her career start and life before, we get transported in that world as does the man and his asistent, we see her story before big time but it also blends in with roles she has played, and films shes been in. at centre her involvment with a mysterious man she never got to know, and corruption from ones close, her obsession to track him down. in this meanwhile through her films we see plenty of action and fantasy and the old man entering as her saviour as his assistent oddly looks on, the film plays well, and it works on many leviels,
    scott g Super Reviewer
  • Nov 17, 2010
    Oh Millennium Actress is one of my all time favourite movies it's just because of how creative and brilliant it is. To see one woman's major struggle throw out Meany eras of her life. 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. 90% for story sometimes it can be slow but overall it's the only negative thing about the movie. 100% for dubbing and acting I guess. 100% for animation quality 100% for characters I loved all of them well of course the lead is my favourite. 100% for everything else. I liked the music, settings and it juts goes on and on All I can say is watch it its worth it Keiko's score 95-100
    Keiko A Super Reviewer

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