Millennium Actress

Year: 2001
Director: Satoshi Kon
Rating: 8/10

This Japanese animation from Satoshi Kon, who also directed the very well-regarded Paprika, Tokyo Godfather and Perfect Blue (none of which I have seen unfortunately), is a marvelous stroll through Japan in the 20th Century and their film industry. It is nostalgic, warm, amusing, magical, poignant and eventually bitter sweet. It also contains a love story that reminded me of Dr. Zhivago in its vast panorama. The animation struck me as simplistic with basic facial features and backgrounds but the imagination at work jumbling and merging the real and the unreal storylines together and sending us on an emotional trip is powerful.

Two reporters seek out an interview with Chiyoko, an elderly actress who was once a huge star in the 1950's but who went into seclusion many years previously when she was at the top. She has disappeared from the public for decades. She agrees to be interviewed and takes the two newsmen and the viewers on a trip into the past that is a mélange of swirling memories of her life and the films she was in that covered the genres - Ninja, Samurai, Period, Romance, Godzilla. But strung through all of this is a love story that is hopeless and tragic. As a young girl she literally runs into a young man who is fleeing the fascist security and she helps him hide. In return he gives her a key that he says he will be back for. For the rest of her life she searches, waits and hopes. The ending is brilliant and nearly metaphysical.