Animated Movies, Opinions, Reviews

[REVIEW] ‘Millennium Actress’

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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.

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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.

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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

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About Kelly Conley

Kelly Conley identifies herself as a lifelong bookworm, aspiring writer and editor, chronic chocoholic, and animated movie lover. She also enjoys playing volleyball with her family and friends. Kelly is currently studying Professional Writing and Information Design at Cedarville University, Ohio. As a little girl, Kelly was fed a steady diet of Disney and Pixar classics. Her favorite ones growing up included Disney’s famous Beauty and the Beast and Pixar’s delectable Ratatouille. Animated movies have always been magical to Kelly even as an adult. With the simple ingredients of a good story, music, colors, voices, and a strong imagination, new worlds and characters can be created and brought to the silver screen for everyone to enjoy. Check out Kelly’s portfolio: http://kellyconleyportfolio.weebly.com/
  • Rachel Wagner

    I’m so glad you reviewed this as I have never heard of it before. Thank you for the recommendation. It sounds like a great anime film

  • Jackson Staninger

    This movie is fantastic. One of Satoshi Kon’s best

  • Renard N. Bansale

    This film is Satoshi Kon’s masterpiece and, along with the underrated Cats Don’t Dance, deserve to be the animation representatives in the lists of the greatest films about filmmaking.

  • Anything by Satashi Kon is not for children. He didn’t make works for children – he made them for adults. This is honestly by far his tamest film. Try checking out his film Perfect Blue, a psychological thriller. My favorite anime of all time. It’s also important to note that many contemporary live action western films have directly ripped from Satoshi Kon’s imagery. Here’s a link to a great video on his work: https://vimeo.com/101675469

  • Agustin

    I really LOVE this movie. It’s a hidden masterpiece from Satoshi Kon.
    Emotional and deep, it’s the perfect example of why I love japanese animation.

    And it needs to be seen twice in order to fully understand it.
    I definitely recomend it to everyone. It’s awesome to see.