If you ever been a reporter, you realize there’s four different people you interview when you’re trying to get a story. The first are the people who refuse to say anything. They are hostile and keep wanting to know who gave you their phone number. The second give short answers that barely go beyond the yes or no. This is fine for quoting since there’s not much to transcribe. The third are babblers who will just go on strange and worthless tangents or constantly repeat the same answer. You’ll grow frustrated at them, but can’t do too much for fear of upsetting them or cutting them off right before they were getting to the answer. The fourth are people who give such a vivid answer that you feel you are a part of the moment. These people are rare and you cherish the time they shared with you to contribute to your story. Satoshi Kon’s Millennium Actress is about such a moment.
Ginei Studios has come to the end. The demolition equipment is tearing down the soundstages of the once prestigious company. Genya Tachibana and cameraman Kyoji Ida are filming the destruction for a documentary about the history of studio. Their goal is to score an interview with iconic actress Chiyoko Fujiwara to get a complete story. Genya provides Chiyoko an old key that had once been given to him by a studio employee. Turns out the key meant a lot to the actress. She begins to tell her lifestory which blurs with her film roles. The tale she tells is so spellbinding that both Genya and Kyoji find themselves in her memories. They are videotaping her life and not merely an old actress sitting in her living room. Genya and Kyoji don’t know what is real and what is fantasy, but they are along for the ride with Chiyoko on her memories.
Millennium Actress is an astounding work of flow as we experience so much from Chiyoko’s life and career. In less than 90 minutes so much is told as the years flow past us like a river. Writer-Director Satoshi Kon just nails a way to illustrate a conversation that allow you to get lost in the words and vision of the teller. Chiyoko’s tale of a life in cinema touches upon all the various genres that were being released in Japan. There’s even a cameo from a Godzilla-like creation when towards the end of her career, the actress gets larger male co-stars. Her tale includes plenty of animated action to keep the screen always hoping. Kon passed away in 2010 at age 46 from pancreatic cancer. While he worked in various capacities in the animated movie and television industry, he only directed 4 feature films including Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika. In a handful of films, Kon established himself as one of the world’s finest animation directors. An interesting things found when researching Kon is that he was a big fan of George Roy Hill’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Millennium Actress features also features a character unstuck in time except she’s bringing along company in her transcendent journey. Millennium Actress is a brilliant way to get lost in another’s words and world.
The video is 1.85:1 anamorphic. The restored transfer brings out the details in the showbiz world. The tripod used by the video cameraman has the Sachtler logo. The audio is 5.1 DTS-HD MA in both Japanese and English. The good part is the film is short enough that you can watch it with both audio tracks. The movie is subtitled in English.
Interview with Abby Trott (7:46) has her talk about being a fan of Satoshi Kon’s work so she’s thrilled to be the voice of Chiyoko Fujiwara’s early years.
Interview with Laura Post (20:07) as she talks about her character Eiko Shimao getting used by the industry.
Interview with Producer Masao Maruyama (32:28) has him discuss the movie being re-released after all these years. He sees the timeless nature of the film. He had previously worked on Perfect Blue with Kon. He talks of how they wanted to do something different than the horror and paranoia of the previous project.
Interview with Producer Taro Maki (8:42) has him talk about how this project was brought back because they wanted to get a 4K transfer. He started working with Kon after being impressed by Perfect Blue.
Shout! Factory presents Millennium Actress. Directed by: Satoshi Kon. Screenplay by: Satoshi Kon & Sadayuki Murai. Starring: Miyoko Shōji, Mami Koyama, Fumiko Orikasa, Shōzō Iizuka & Shōko Tsuda. Rated: PG. Running Time: 87. Released: December 10, 2019.
Tags: anime, Millennium Actress, Satoshi Kon, Shout! Factory