Sennen joyû

Synopsis: 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. A Grand Prize Winner for Animation (2001 Japan Agency of Cultural Affairs Media Arts Festival).

Sennen joyû 8.5

After his Hitchcockian thriller ‘Perfect Blue’, Satoshi Kon did it again: he managed to make cinema in animated form – as opposed to making a “cartoon”, like most animated films tend to be. This is not to say that he makes conventional films, however: unconstrained by the limitations of live-action filmmaking, he always finds a way to add artistic touches that would otherwise be too logistically or visually challenging to achieve on screen.

In ‘Millenium Actress’, he decided to offer us a multi-layered drama in a way that no one but he could have envisioned: he tells the story of a retired actress through flashbacks mixed in with clips from her “films” (which are odes to classic Japanese cinema) and integrated with commentary from present-time characters, who aid her in recounting her story. Along the way, he also unfolds before us a mystery that had been the centre of her life since she was a little girl.

If it sounds convoluted, rest assured that it’s not – at worst, it’s merely slightly abstract. As with his other films, ‘Millenium Actress’ takes it upon itself to present its audience with a mild challenge. But that’s what makes his films so special: he tells stories that could have been done in an extremely dry fashion but, instead, sustains our interest by keeping us intellectually, emotionally and aurally stimulated.

For this film, Satoshi Kon chose a more simple animation style than one might expect in this day and age: there isn’t much detail in the way the characters were developed and it doesn’t move briskly or become epic in scope – however, it is extremely rich in the colouring and background work. Personally, I think that this was perfectly suited to the story being told and the type of film he was creating (but I suspect that, being a huge fan of his work, I am rather biased ;).

‘Millenium Actress’ is a remarkable film. Not only does it have a truly clever delivery, but it contains an emotional depth that many live-action films would only dream that they had. I’m usually not a big fan of dramatic films – I find that they frequently end up blending with one another after you see a few. However, if more of them were made in such a fresh way as this one was, I would probably watch more of them.

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