I stumbled across Millennium Actress a few years ago. I had never heard of the film before, and it appeared to be a lesser known movie compared to Studio Ghibli’s. I was piqued by the storyline and the tidbits I saw from the trailer, but I never got to fully watch it until this summer.
Released in 2002 and co-written and directed by Satoshi Kon, Millennium Actress introduces us to Genya Tachibana, a TV interviewer, and his cameraman, Kyoji Ida, who go to interview the elderly and reclusive Chiyoko Fujiwara, a famous Japanese actress from the mid-twentieth century. In the interview, Chiyoko tells them about meeting a mysterious artist wanted by the Japanese government during her childhood. Chiyoko hid him from the authorities and, in gratitude, the young man promised to show her his favorite place to paint in Japan someday. Unfortunately, the artist had to leave before saying goodbye to Chiyoko and left a metal key behind, which she keeps as a treasured possession. This incident changes Chiyoko’s life and gives her a goal—to find the mysterious man (she doesn’t even know his name) and return the key to him. To do this, she becomes an actress. Throughout the movie, Genya and Kyoji walk with the elderly Chiyoko down memory lane, and we get to see flashbacks from Chiyoko’s films and her past.
The film can be confusing at times. The flashbacks merge the past and the present together, sometimes making it difficult to differentiate what is fiction and what is reality. Genya, a devoted fan of Chiyoko, and Kyoji find themselves interacting in these flashbacks, often with comedic results. However, Millennium Actress is not a comedy or an action-adventure. I would say the film is a reflective one, where there is a lot of symbolism and deeper meanings happening in it. But don’t let this keep you from watching the movie. There is a lot of heartfelt messages and moments, with themes of time going by, lost youth, chasing your dreams, and unrequited love.
Despite its PG rating, I found Millennium Actress a little more violent and scarier than I had previously assumed. I would advise viewers’ discretion for younger kids (check out IMDb’s parent’s guide for more details).
Millennium Actress is an excellent film despite its obscurity. It’s probably not for everyone, but I urge anyone who is interested to check it out. What I took away from the film was that sometimes the destination of a trip is not always important; it’s the journey that matters.
Have you seen Millennium Actress? If not, are you interested?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes