Millennium Actress (review)

Revered anime filmmaker Satoshi Kon’s latest film has been critically acclaimed at film festivals around the world, and there’s little wonder why. Delightfully warm and unexpectedly, deeply humanistic, this is an excellent introduction for the curious to the specifically Japanese animation genre that’s neither too culturally alien nor too geekily science fictional (as anime has a tendency to be). Chiyoko Fujiwara (voiced, in different stages of her life, by Miyoko Shoji, Mami Koyama, and Fumiko Orikasa) was once, in the early to mid years of the 20th century, a great movie star; now, documentary filmmaker and devoted fan Genya Tachibana (the voice of Shouzou Iizuka) comes to interview her in her retirement. Listening to Chiyoko’s secret story, of spending decades chasing a man she fell in love with after a brief encounter when she was a teenager, Genya’s imagination inserts himself — and, amusingly, his cameraman, Kyoji Ida (the voice of Masaya Onosaka) — into the daring and adventurous tales of her movies. Romantic and visionary and cozily authentic, this is a beautiful film about the pursuit of the elusive, and, hauntingly, about how film insinuates itself into our inner lives and becomes our fantasies.

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