Millennium Actress (2001)

millennium actress poster 2001 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 9/10

Satoshi Kon was a visionary


Movie Info

Movie Name:  Millennium Actress

Studio:  Madhouse

Genre(s):  Animated/Drama/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s):  July 28, 2001 (Fantasia Film Festival)/September 14, 2002 (Japan)

MPAA Rating:  PG

millennium actress chiyoko

Dip in and out of reality…

Ginei Studios is coming down. The once prestigious film studio is now a thing in the past and interviewer Genya Tachibana and his photographer Kyoji have gotten a rare interview with former Ginei star and recluse Chiyoko Fujiwara. When Genya present Chiyoko with a key that she used to own, Chiyoko recalls the events that led her into becoming an actress and the search for the man who gave her the key. Pulled into her storytelling, Kyoji and Genya learn Chiyoko’s tale and the dreams of a future she could never reach.

Directed by Satoshi Kon (who also wrote the screenplay with Sadayuki Murai), Millennium Actress (千年女優 or Sennen Joyū) is a Japanese animated film. Following Satioshi Kon’s Perfect Blue in 1997, the movie takes aspects of the lives of Japanese actresses Setsuko Hara (1920-2015) and Hideko Takamine (1924-2010). It was released to positive reviews.

millennium actress chiyoko

She really doesn’t like her costar…

Satoshi Kon was a real visionary animation director. I discovered him after his death in 2010 from pancreatic cancer though I had heard of Perfect Blue before. Even with few movies, Kon was able to demonstrate a real skill which makes you wish he had more time to present his vision.

Like Paprika and Perfect Blue, the movie dips in and out of reality and fantasy. Chiyoko’s memories are told both through her actual memories and memories of the films she was in (which generally reflect her memories as well). It is an odd spiral of events that continue to twist and merge as the story is told.

Satoshi Kon makes good characters. There are some stock characters like the camera man Kyoji, but with both Genya and Chiyoko, he gives real rounded characters. Since the movie is about memories, characters like the runaway painter is a stock character because Chiyoko was more in love with the idea of him than the actual person…which could be argued about many of the other characters in the movie since they too are recreations from her memories.

millennium actress chiyoko old

Time plays hell on you…

The movie gets a lot of visual variety since it is recreating movies of Chiyoko. The character is supposed to have starred in a wide variety of movies from period pieces, to dramas, to war films, to space and monster movies…it all becomes a visual palette for the story which gives the film a lot of variety.

While I enjoy all of Satoshi Kon’s films, I still would Perfect Blue and Paprika as my favorites of his movies. This doesn’t mean that Millennium Actress should be dismissed, but it is a different type of movie from the other above-mentioned films. All three films represent a weird kind of “world” that Kon was creating where reality and imagination blend and what may be true to one person isn’t reality or the truth to another person. Satoshi Kon followed Millennium Actress with Tokyo Godfathers in 2003.

Related Links:

Perfect Blue (1997)

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Paprika (2007)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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