Guest Author - Lesley Aeschliman
Millennium Actress is a film directed by Satoshi Kon and animated by Studio Madhouse. The film was released to Japanese theaters on September 14, 2002. Millennium Actress also received a limited theatrical release in the United States on September 12, 2003. In the United States, the film was released by Dreamworks.
The story of the film is done in the style of a "play within a play." Genya Tachibana is working on a documentary about Chiyoko Fujiwara, an elderly actress who has withdrawn from public life. As Genya talks with Chiyoko, we see the story of her life from her teenage years to being a middle aged superstar. The flashbacks that appear are interspersed with segments from Chiyoko's films. While Chiyoko's life takes place surrounding World War II, the characters in her films span from the Sengoku period to a futuristic space age.
One of the big elements of the story has to do with a dissident artist that Chiyoko helped to escape from the military. She became attracted to him, but he had to flee. However, he left behind a key to his suitcase, and Chiyoko wants to find him. She initially became an actress in order to have the opportunities to travel and to try to find him. Over the course of the story, we learn that Genya was actually part of Chiyoko's past, although she doesn't realize it right at first.
The execution of the story is very well-done, although there are a lot of layers to the storytelling. You really have to watch it more than once in order to pick up on details that you may have missed the first time you watch it. While there's nothing visually that would be unacceptable to younger viewers, I think the execution of the storytelling of the film would be rather confusing to them. I would personally recommend this film to anime viewers who are 15 or 16 years of age and older.
When you put the DVD into the player, the main menu allows you to play the film, set up your options, scene selection, and special features. In the set up menu, you can choose which language you want the subtitles in, as well as how you want to hear the audio. The audio is only available in Japanese. The only drawback to this menu is that after you make a selection, you are automatically returned to the main menu. If you need to make a second selection, you have to return to the set up menu again.
There are two special features on the DVD. The first is a 40 minute documentary about the making of Millennium Actress. The documentary is in Japanese with English subtitles; the narration is done by the voice actor for Genya. Over the course of the documentary, interviews are included from Satoshi Kon, several members of the production team, and all three voice actresses for Chiyoko. The other extra is a trailer for Millennium Actress that is slightly over a minute long. This trailer is in English to promote Dreamworks' release of the film.
Millennium Actress is a very well-done anime film, and it has become a classic. I would personally recommend this DVD for anyone who considers themselves as a fan of Satoshi Kon's work or as a fan of anime in general.
I wrote this review after watching a copy of this DVD that my husband purchased for me as a gift.