Millennium Actress (2001) review
Well, guys this is probably it, the final review of Satoshi Kon’s films, so here I am honoring this man’s work in the only way I can and what he gave to the film industry as a whole. Again, I would like to remind you that I am reviewing his films in the order that I have seen them in. Okay, now that is out of the way. Millennium Actress was the second feature film directed and co-written by Satoshi Kon that was released in the year 2001. It was animated by Studio Madhouse and also co-written by Sadayuki Murai, who also worked with Kon on his first feature Perfect Blue and is partially based on the life of real life actresses Setsuko Hara and Hideko Takamine. The film follows a documentary filmmaker who investigates the life of an aging and retired actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara. What follows is a Citizen Kane like storyline where we get to know more about her life through her films and events that took place in her real life, that’s so well blended together; you never know what’s reality and what’s fiction.
Millennium Actress is easily Kon’s most overlooked film, because that year the release of Spirited Away pretty much crushed the chances of this film getting much recognition, and to this day, not many people really talk about it. So here I am telling you, this is my favorite film by Satoshi Kon. This film was just a masterstroke in storytelling. The cinematography is the best of what Satoshi Kon has to offer. The characters, especially our main character was amazing and so interesting to see the decisions she makes in her life how that plays into the rest of her works and ultimately the bigger picture. here is a pretty good example of the cinematography that I am babbling about.
The story is great, but the master stroke really lies in the execution of the story, much like Citizen Kane, you find out more about this anonymous character that no one really knows about to a point where he or she becomes a character that everyone knows about, and just like Citizen Kane, the cinematography that adds to it is just brilliance, really I know how much I have praised Kon’s cinematography in the previous reviews, but not like how he has done it here, every shot adds to the story, there isn’t one shot in this film that I can actually consider unnecessary, the recurring motif of ‘the key’ in this movie is very similar to that of the motif of ‘Rosebud’ in Citizen Kane. As much as I am making it sound like a Citizen Kane rip-off, it’s not and ultimately they are two completely different films that follow a very similar kind of storytelling, so in the end they are similar but not the same.
The characters are also very well realized, the main character Chiyoko and her storyline is just fascinating to watch, particularly the overarching story of her trying to find the man she loves, a recurring storyline that is featured in many of her films and all of it culminates in one of the best endings any film has to offer (more on that later), the documentary filmmaker Genya Tachibana, was a fascinating character as well, because he is a fan of this actress and it clearly shows how much he deeply cares for her and how he factors into her story later in the film was just perfect. He is not the usual bumbling fat guy to make jokes and add comedic relief; he is a character, a guy who is a bonified fan boy of this actress and not some weird awkward dude.
The animation is good, but not great, seeing as Spirited Away came out the exact same year, but again I am comparing this film to a Miyazaki movie where animation is their selling point. What I am trying to say is, this isn’t the best Studio Madhouse has to offer. The backgrounds however look brilliant and beautiful, but where the weak points come is in the slightly dated look on the characters, but aside from that the animation is pretty solid and it’s beautiful to look at.
So, with all that said, and very, very little to spoil, I have to say the film is quite frankly my favorite film from Kon’s work, it is intricately crafted, it is well thought out, and never ever fails to grab your attention, it is perfectly paced and has one of the best endings ever in films that I will dare not give away and trust me, I have seen plenty of movies in my admittedly limited experience as a reviewer. It combines all the elements that Satoshi Kon is great at, that includes his cinematography, the well written characters, the story and above all, great execution. It pays wonderful homages to some of Tokyo’s older films and while animation is certainly the film’s weakest point for me, it still is a beauty to look at. So with so much to write but very little to spoil, I give Millennium Actress an ‘A+’ and highly recommend this to anybody who hasn’t seen it yet.
Final Rating: A+
So that concludes my reviews of Satoshi Kon, a great and masterful filmmaker, and I am glad that the last film of his that I saw was my favorite of his works and yes I know that he had directed a T.V series Paranoia Agent, so I will review that whenever I can because it is unfortunately really hard for me to get. So I just want to thank you guys for sticking around and reading my admittedly long reviews of this man's work, and if you have read them all, I really appreciate it and I thank you very very much for taking the time to do so. I will do more stuff, I recently got a copy of Cowboy Bebop and I will upload a review for that as it's already on my blog, and tomorrow or the day after, I will rank the Pixar films from best to worst in light of the release of Inside Out (which is coming out really late on 26th in my country btw), so I will see you guys next time. Also I would like to thank the MP community for listing my Tokyo Godfathers review on the Top 10 posts by creators this week, I really appreciate it and you can check it out on the website.