Challenge Week 42: Millennium Actress

This completes Satoshi Kon’s filmography for me, and OMG did I save the best for last (unwittingly). I liked his other three films, but I loved this one – not only does it avoid some of the excesses that anime often falls into for me (including the end of Kon’s Paprika), but it straddles the line between fantasy and reality in a way that is basically made for me. I don’t know if Travis knew that or not when he recommended this to me, but good on you, mate.

When a famous studio is about to close, a TV journalist goes to interview the studio’s biggest star, now long-retired and rather reclusive. She grants him the interview, and starts telling him the retrospective of her life, starting with how she met an intriguing young revolutionary as a girl – he dropped a key, which she picked up and kept for him. She became an actress in hopes that he would see her movies and find her, and at this point, her retelling of the movies she was in blurs with her real-life search for this young man that would last throughout her career and life. Meanwhile, the TV journalist and cameraman ALSO become part of the story, appearing in the movies, and eventually taking part in them and helping her on her quest to find the mysterious man.

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This structure lets Kon imitate many different types of film, as each movie she tells about is a different style, set in a different period of Japanese history, but always focused on the woman trying to escape her stifling life and find this man, often needing to physically break free of captors to do so. This gives you the sense of her seeking her potential lover not only through her career, but also throughout all of history. It’s action-packed and never slows down, a crescendo of images and music that crashes to a breathless finale that brings somewhat heartbreaking but absolutely true resolution.

I’m inspired to rewatch Kon’s other films as well now, but this one is such a peculiarly “me” film that I doubt it’ll be surpassed. I already can’t wait to watch it again. I suspect it will move up my chart further when I do.

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Stats and stuff…

2001, Japan
directed by Satoshi Kon, written by Satoshi Kon and Sadayuki Murai
starring Miyoko Shôji, Mami Koyama, Fumiko Orikasa, Shôzô Îzuka, Shouko Tsuda

I’m ranking all my Challenge films on Flickchart (as I do all the films I see), a movie-ranking website that asks you to choose your favorite between two movies until it builds a ranked list of your favorites. Just for fun, I will average out the rankings and keep a running tally of whose recommendations rank the highest. When you add a film to Flickchart, it pits it against films already on your chart to see where it should fall. Here’s how Millennium Actress entered my chart:

Millennium Actress > Happy Feet
Millennium Actress > Side Effects
Millennium Actress > The Three Musketeers (1973)
Millennium Actress < Fish Tank
Millennium Actress > The Woman in the Window
Millennium Actress < Moonrise Kingdom
Millennium Actress > JFK
Millennium Actress < Elevator to the Gallows
Millennium Actress > The Lives of Others
Millennium Actress < Anatomy of a Murder
Millennium Actress > About Time

Final #309 out of 3709 films on my chart (92%)

It is now my #1 Satoshi Kon film (this 100%’s his filmography for me), my #1 Anime film, and my #9 film of 2001.

Millennium Actress was recommended by Travis Easton, a friend from the Flickcharters group on Facebook.

A few more screenshots…

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  • I watched Millennium Actress a few years back and was intrigued by it. It’s one of those films that I really need to go back and watch again. There was so much to take in with the plot and also with the themes behind it. I’ve only seen Paprika in terms of Kon’s other movies. I liked its total chaos but also felt a little distant from it at the same time.

    • Yeah, I already can’t wait to watch it again. This time enthralled me, but I can definitely see digging deeper being rewarding.

      The chaos in Paprika turned me off a little. I know it’s supposed to be a dream world or something, but it just got to be a little much. I would like to see it again. Tokyo Godfathers is really good. And Perfect Blue I’ve seen, but I really don’t remember a thing about it.