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No Frills Review: MILLENNIUM ACTRESS (DVD TO BE RELEASED OCT. 28,2003)

 
 
ddmcd
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      09-26-2003
NO FRILLS REVIEW: MILLENNIUM ACTRESS (DVD TO BE RELEASED OCT. 28, 2003)

One of the most mature, evocative, creative, and melodramatic movies
I've seen all year is an animated film, directed by the same director
(Satoshi Kon) as the realistic yet disappointing (to me) potboiler
PERFECT BLUE.

Millennium Actress is a concentrated history of 20th Century Japanese
Cinema, told in the form of flashbacks and fantasy sequences. These are
related to an interview by a devoted documentary film maker of his
beloved and reclusive actress hero, Chiyoko Fujiwara, who is now elderly
and retired.

Starting with her youth in the 1920's and her discovery by a producer
creating a jingoistic patriotic film, the interview and the movie follow
her career as she seeks a secret lover who, pursued by the authorities,
leaves her with a key she treasures and wants to return. And then, 30
years ago, she disappeared into obscurity.

Her story touches on her lost love, her career, and her rivalries.
These are shown in flashbacks that combine historic events with popular
Japanese filmmaking of the day. We see Manchurian bandits attacking her
train, fiery arrow attacks on medieval fortresses, demonic black magic
(and floating demons), jealousy, outer space movies, earthquakes,
swordplay -- even Godzilla makes a momentary entrance. Through the story
her interviewers - and his cameraman - pop up first as spectators then
as participants in her stories.

If I had to summarize the film in two words, they would be, "supremely
cinematic." Whereas Perfect Blue (I thought) used animation to no good
purpose, here the time compression, drama, emotion, subtlety, and
imaginative imagery take advantage of all the 2-D animator's bag of tricks.

Story wise, one film I would compare this to is Wings of Honneamise.
Both create fantasy worlds that adhere to their own logic and as a
result can be viewed as real; we see a similar effect in Peter Jackson's
decision to treat the creatures and evil of Middle Earth as real. Where
Wings of Honneamise uses an alternate world's marginally different
social and political structures as a background to a sporadically funded
space program and moral conflict, Millennium Actress uses real elements
-- Japanese social history and film - then displays them through a lens
of fantasy, realistic drama, and emotion.

Somehow, the lovely animation - in many cased subdued and painterly,
seems to lend a sense of realism. I'm not sure this could have been done
as well with live action. And I'm definitely looking forward to the DVD.

http://ddmcd.home.mindspring.com/DVD/




 
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