Sunday, October 23, 2005

Millennium Actress

Genre: Fantasy, Drama, Comedy
Parental guidance recommended
2001 Satoshi Kon, Sadayuki Murai, Bandai Visual, GENCO, Kadokawa Shoten, WOWOW, The Klockworx Co., Ltd.

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Cover Description:
From critically acclaimed director Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue), comes the award-winning masterpiece, Millennium Actress. Known for his remarkable visual style, Kon seamlessly blends fantasy and reality into an exciting epic adventure of fate and destiny. Past and present collide as a film director discovers a mysterious key that unlocks the secrets of a legendary actress who vanished at the height of her brilliant career.

Confusing at first. >>> by skysenshi
Millenium Actress, along with Spirited Away, was the Grand Prize Award Winner of the Japan Agency of Cultural Affairs Media Arts Festival. With this, and the fact that it was written and directed by Satoshi Kon (of Perfect Blue fame), I already knew what to expect. Think Alice in Wonderland meets Alfred Hitchcock.

The plot is simple enough: movie director Genya Tachibana brings cameraman Kyoji Ida along to interview the actress of his childhood fantasies, Chiyoko Fujiwara. As Chiyoko enthralls you with her story of undying love and devotion, you find yourself whisked away in a plethora of memories made vivid by the re-enactment of her classic films. Real meets reel. Tachibana and assistant, and consequently, you, find yourselves literally watching Chiyoko’s past unfold right before your very eyes. You will be taken to different eras of Japanese film history while you unravel the mystery that enshrouds Chiyoko’s ageless persona. At some point, you find yourself wondering where the movies end and where her real life struggle begins.

While this had me staggering in bewilderment the first time the concept was introduced, I came to appreciate Satoshi Kon’s innovation in dramatic storytelling. Use of psychotic elements, which defined his first animated motion picture, Perfect Blue, was still there — Chiyoko spent most of her life tragically chasing after a lover’s phantom. The treatment, however, was slightly different. The atmosphere was light and airy. Humor was injected in the form of Ida’s side comments and the little surprising tidbits that were introduced along the way, like for instance, when Tachibana was greeted at Chiyoko’s door and whenever Tachibana assumed the role of a movie’s cast member. Hilarity was used to soften the blow of Chiyoko’s harsh reality, which had become an entangled mass of obsessions, delusions, and ultimately, grand-scale deceptions. The method, nevertheless, becomes effective in bringing about tear-inducing scenarios that you would remember for a very long time.

The artwork and animation are the exact opposite of what you’d see in Spirited Away. While the latter is famous for its brilliant play of colors, Millenium Actress is characterized by muted and pallid tones. Very few colors are used, except for certain facets that are most likely employed to jar viewers awake from the constant monotony.

Highly recommended — especially for jaded anime fans, who are looking for fresh new approaches in a world where every plot unimaginable seems to have already been tackled.

Individual Rating: Art/Animation 7; Story 4; Characters 9; Sounds 8

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