Millennium Actress (2002) – A Perspective of Reality

Satoshi Kon’s “Millennium Actress” is probably one of the most underrated of all his works I’ve ever watched. It’s a simple story to deal with it. But, Satoshi Kon is indeed a director whose full of a twist of surprises in each of his works. You can call it such as “Perfect Blue,” “Paprika,” and “Tokyo Godfathers”. These films one of the timeless classic masterpieces from a genius we never have forgotten. It has a simple yet wonderfully crafted story about recounting a past.

Something so simple – for some reason, he can unite it with a magic touch of his own trademark. As usual, he really loves combining reality and dream into one unique story. We can’t even distinguish between reality and dream. “Millennium Actress” is about an old woman who retells her past while she was young. So why her journey could change her shape of life.

It opens with a space scene where we cannot tell which one is real, the first scene executed gently. Suddenly an earthquake happens which sync with the transition of the main characters are watching it and the real event. It’s a story about two filmmakers trying to interview a famous actress who has retired for several years. They tried to make a documentation to commemorate an anniversary from a studio.

Suddenly, the scene goes into Chiyoko Fujiwara’s past. The adventure of her life when she meets someone who makes her feel inspired. Full of obstacles how she became an actress until her name goes up. And, her final journey to find someone who is the key owner. We confused with the transition and frequency techniques of how Satoshi Kon combines reality and the past. We see how Chiyoko retells her past and meets the man where she doesn’t know who it is. It combines the two filmmakers that join in the past. The structured in real terms so it’s a dream but it looks real as well as the opposite.

As the point of the storytelling style combines past and reality, “Millennium Actress” focus more on Chiyoko and her past. The man with no name itself – not that Dollars trilogy. The story makes Chiyoko decision about how her love with the man. Does she really love him? Actually, yes because it’s her love for that man that made her move forward. Starring in the actress who starred in a variety of films with different genres. The real purpose isn’t only that but to find the man. Therefore, the key owner that the man hold is a MacGuffin for the major plot so that the character continues to move forward and forward.

While Chiyoko recounts her past from the past, Genya and Kyoji take part in the story. From here, imagination left free and the audience determines it. Whatever you think or try to interpret, the point of the movie is kind of like a documentary or filmmaking but not. Some of the moments when Genya became the supporting cast of the film that Chiyoko told sometimes caused the brain to try to interpret the event. It’s according to audience imagination itself and this is what I like about Satoshi Kon how he combines two different things but it’s hard to recognize are the important points of this film and other Kon works.

The art is great but it kinda reminds me a little with “Perfect Blue” even though this is a movie that aired in 2002, five years after the film. The details are actually not very impressive if we distinguish them from “Tokyo Godfathers” but what makes me like this film is the cut and the transition. There is a moment when Satoshi Kon combines all frames, quick cut, and fast transitions. It syncs with the scene and the movement of characters like Chiyoko first past that goes on and on. For example, in each scene, Chiyoko often runs anywhere and anytime to chasing a man who keeps her inspired.

The cut between after the scene and after the scene is so fantastic and the movie does it effectively, illustrating all settings between the cut from this time into the next event. It’s hard to explain how Satoshi Kon did it even though I understood very well. But if you have watched this movie, you might understand what I’m saying. As usual, the moments in this film take a little inspiration from Stanley Kubrick as well as “Perfect Blue” because there are cinematography techniques used by Satoshi Kon in both films that really remind me of Stanley Kubrick like the scene when there is a serious scene, turns out is a scene that isn’t actually real. The movement also quite reminds me of Akira Kurosawa.

The movie is executed and coupled so beautifully which it creates moments that fit in certain scenes. The cinematography is great and amazing for films at the time. Yet, there are some from Chiyoko’s past about the film that she starred which a bit remind me of the cultural vibe of Akira Kurosawa also. The movie has a simple concept like almost all Satoshi Kon films, he always accompanies it with a little twist and mind-freak for his audience. Apart from playing with the audience’s mind itself, the movie contains many questions after that.

Is the man with no name real? Is Chiyoko not pursuing anything and it’s nothing to deal with? What about Genya’s point of view when the last fact that is known to him alone? I don’t need to talk much about after this, in the end, everything is just up to the audience itself. Because of the key, it doesn’t explain anything either. What is the key for? What do they want to reveal? Is anyone waiting from the distance? Simple, the key is the answer to “open” everything based on each interpretation either using Genya or Chiyoko’s point of view, it depends on your wild imagination.

“Millennium Actress” is actually not one of the films that are taken for granted. Although this film does seem simple from its premise but more than that, it’s a movie that raises more questions as well as draws many diverse interpretations that need to be discussed deeply. Of all the works of Satoshi Kon, “Millennium Actress” in short is the most underrated yet perfect film. With the trademark that’s not lost from a Satoshi Kon, he loves to play with the audience mind. It’s like Christopher Nolan if directing an animated film. Bottom line, it’s not one of those movies that can be watched by everyone other than the use of plots is quite non-linear but easy to keep up to the use of two subjective things between reality and dreams, “Millennium Actress” is a piece of art.

Salman Al Farisi

An Indonesian who loves to watch and read everything. A literary student who likes to write about reviews and essays on Crackdown Review. But, I just wannabe critics who love arthouse than anything.

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