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Millennium Actress
Reviewer: Rowena Lim Lei 06/06/2004

At the height of her career, celebrated actress Chiyoko Fujiwara decides to fade into the shadows and lead a reclusive life. Thirty years later, Chiyoko's former co-worker and biggest fan Genya Tachibana is granted the opportunity to interview her. The interview takes Genya and Chiyoko back to the very beginning -- from when Chiyoko was just an ordinary schoolgirl who fell in love with a mysterious stranger. Chiyoko's memories of her past and recollections of scenes from the various movies she starred in all intersperse with the present day reality to tell a bittersweet story.
Director Satoshi Kon put audiences in the shoes of a threatened young celebrity on the brink of insanity and paranoia in his first movie Perfect Blue. Several years later, Kon once again thrusts us into the colorful world of cinema with Millennium Actress -- the story of one woman's pursuit of what she believes is true love, expressed through many different roles she plays as the years go by.
It has been thirty years since former superstar Chiyoko Fujiwara disappeared from the limelight. Since then no one has seen or heard from Chiyoko, much less know how she had been living out her days. A video journalist named Genya Tachibana gets a hold of her present whereabouts, and Chiyoko miraculously agrees to be interviewed for the first time in three decades. An excited Tachibana is accompanied by his skeptical cameraman Ida to see Chiyoko, and Tachibana surprises Chiyoko by giving her an old key -- something which spurs Chiyoko to open up and unlock what she thought were feelings and events long forgotten.
It was never really Chiyoko's wish to become an actress. She was discovered by the head of a prominent production studio on her way home from school, but her mother was very much against an acting career. Chiyoko meets a mysterious artist shortly after. The encounter lasts for what seems like mere moments, but it is what consequently fuels Chiyoko to become the most prominent actress of her time. As it turns out, the artist is an anti-government radical wanted by the police. He escapes before Chiyoko can even know his name, leaving behind a key which supposedly unlocks the most important thing there is. Chiyoko takes the key and becomes obsessed with finding him and returning the key to him. She goes against her mother's wishes and agrees to become an actress, in the hopes that the artist will get to see her films.
Tachibana and Ida are so caught up in Chiyoko's autobiographical accounts that for most part of the film, it would seem as if they were actually there as various events in Chiyoko's life unfurl. Chiyoko's tireless search for the artist is dramatically illustrated in the wide array of roles she takes on, set in specific eras of Japanese history. She plays a war nurse in Manchuria, a geisha, a ninja, a princess, an astronaut... and in all her films, Chiyoko is always in pursuit of a man she can never quite reach. There is a very thin line between Chiyoko's real life and onscreen experiences, so thin that it becomes nearly impossible to discern one from the other. The film's essence comes from taking all of Chiyoko's recollections as one whole picture of how she chose to live her life. It's about love, obsession, and ultimately standing up and living for what you believe.
The visuals are nothing short of exceptional. Character designs are realistic and unpretentious while being attractive, not glamorized or prettified despite the film's cinematic theme. The lack of fluidity I had noticed in Perfect Blue was no longer evident in Millennium Actress. If anything Millennium Actress is one of the most smooth and polished anime movies I've ever seen. Scene transitions from present to past, from real life to the silverscreen, from one era to the next are all flawlessly executed. Since music remains understated throughout the whole film, the masterfully crafted visuals really take center stage.
Millennium Actress is one woman's poignant journey through life set against the backdrop of Japanese film history, open to varying levels of interpretation. A simple, nostalgic, and yet profound work that will surely leave its mark on anyone who can feel deeply about something or someone.
Millennium Actress has no English dub track.

Millennium Actress
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Review Title:
Millennium Actress
Alternative Titles:
Sennen Joyuu Chiyoko
90 Minutes
General Rating:
5 out of 5 stars
Suitable For:
Adventure, Drama, Fantasy,
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