A Bittersweet Tale That Expertly Blurs The Lines Between Fiction And Reality

Following the success of Perfect Blue, it took Satoshi Kon a few years to follow up with a new movie that blessed the rules of reality. While Perfect Blue explored the darker aspects of the human psyche, Millennium Actress took a more positive outlook and is in many ways a better film for it.

The premise of Millennium Actress has two filmmakers trying to do a documentary about a retired legendary actress called Chiyoko Fujiwara. In the recording of the documentary and as Chiyoko talks about her life of her, the filmmakers are pulled into her story of her. Breaking the fourth wall and taking us on another mind-bending ride that Kon is so famous for.

While Perfect Blue often gets the breathless accolades for its dark and edgy drama, as well as its scathing portrayal of idol culture, Millennium Actress has a gentler and more nuanced touch.

It’s also been somewhat of an overlooked work of Kon’s, as Perfect Blue was more shocking and Paprika was a unique science fiction story. I suppose that’s why people like Darren Aronofsky lifted scenes from Kon’s works in films such as Requiem for a Dream and why Christopher Nolan took so much from Paprika for inception.

With Millennium Actress caught in the middle, telling a tale that is culturally very Japanese, so I suppose that meant it was not as straightforward to integrate it elsewhere.

The story itself in Millennium Actress has us taken on a journey with Chiyoko and the love that drives her, as well as its loss, and that stays with you a lot more than the stalkers and idols in Perfect Blue.

Naturally, the filmmaker duo adds a lot of comedic relief, as they are somewhat bumbling in their approach, but the core story of Chiyoko’s life and her career as an actress through the formative years of Japanese cinema makes for some lovely viewing.

This is because the story itself is based around cinema, so Kon has a lot of fun mixing that up with the real world. It also makes more sense here, compared to Perfect Blue, as the filmmaker duo are trying to get to the bottom of the story in the same way the viewer is. Digging through Chiyoko’s life and the obvious secrecy surrounding that, makes the blurred lines between fiction and reality more useful in a narrative sense. Her work de ella becomes the allegory for the love and loss in her life de ella, which in turn gives her work a greater meaning not only to the filmmakers in the story but also for the viewer.

Millennium Actress also had some proper production value behind it and it holds up very well over two decades later.

Which brings me onto this Blu-ray release. Firstly, the animation looks pristine and is wonderfully handled. I first saw this film in a theater in Japan when it was originally released and it’s pretty much as I remember it. Secondly, the audio is great as well. Susumu Hirasawa’s score for this film is one of my favorites and its fidelity is not lost on this release.

However, when it comes to the extras, it is a bit of a mixed bag. The steel book is nicely done but the booklet doesn’t really offer much. The extras on the disc itself also have interviews with the English voice cast, but those aren’t as interesting as the interviews with the film’s producer Taro Maki and co-founder of Madhouse, Masao Maruyama.

Apart from that, the extras are not all that great but to be honest, they don’t really matter. The main event is the movie itself and this Blu-ray release does a beautiful job of preserving a wonderful film for new and old viewers alike.

Millennium Actress is now available on Blu-ray and can be purchased via Amazon.

Disclosure: Shout! Factory sent me this Blu-ray for the purposes of this review.

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