June 10, 2008
“What does this key open?”
“The most important thing in the world.”
STORY – Millennium Actress’s story is very simplistic and very sweet. I’m not usually a fan of unquestioning, devotional love, especially to such a crazed, obsessive extent, but the way this movie presents things makes it very easy to like. Just the extent of everything, the lengths to which Chiyoko had been willing to go; all of it was incredible. Even better still, was the idea that we in the audience could not know just how much of it was real and just how much of it was fantasy. The lines seem permanently blurred and any one scene might have just as easily been a memory or a dream, especially since all of the recollections are coming at an age where forgetfulness is common, making everything all the more tragic.
The use of movies to convey a fantasy was brilliant, especially considering the story’s form as a movie. The way people in the present are thrown into the past (or fantasy) was also a wonderfully creative way to tie the two times together, and there’s even a bit of tongue-in-cheek self-commentary on this way of handling things. Really, it’s Satoshi Kon’s phenomenal storytelling that transforms Millennium Actress’s exceedingly simple plotline into a masterpiece.
CHARACTERS – I have mixed feelings about the characters in this movie. I’ve said before that I’m not a fan of sudden, unquestioning love; thus, I definitely wasn’t a fan of the fact that Chiyoko essentially fell into eternal love with a man she’d met once, briefly, for several short hours. At the same time, the extent to which she took this infatuation seemed strangely realistic, despite how incredible it was. Indeed, people obsess over little things all the time, irrelevant people, incidental meetings; there are short moments that they will remember for the rest of their lives, so perhaps it isn’t so strange that Chiyoko should cling onto something like that. Besides, it wasn’t as if she had thrown her entire life away for the man, even if she did build up everything she had in order for him to see her. Aside from the obsession, I really enjoyed the way the elder Chiyoko was portrayed. It was very believable that she would become a recluse, and the way she told her story, the small revelations that came along with it — all of it was wonderfully interesting to watch and very touching in the end.
The other characters in the movie are all relatively minor and their characters subsequently less complex. Mostly, their personalities are sculpted so that they contribute directly to moving Chiyoko’s story along, whether by acting as antagonists or by wanting to discover more. In the end, I find them more to be tools to help Chiyoko along more than being characters of their own, but in a movie like this, I think that’s fine.
ARTSTYLE & ANIMATION – Millennium Actress has some absolutely gorgeous animation. The art style is rather typical of Satoshi Kon, and you’ll easily notice that many of his middle-aged and older male characters look startlingly similar across the movies and series he’s directed, but the same can be said with a number of other prominent artists and directors. What I loved about the animation itself was how smoothly scene transitions were handled, especially considering that we moved back and forth between present day and past recollection and between reality and movie fantasy constantly. The inclusion of the present day interviewers within flashbacks is one of my favorite touches and really helps weld everything together in the end. It was especially nice too, to see so many different kinds of scenes animated since they were just scenes within Chiyoko’s movies.
MUSIC – Maybe I was too wrapped up in the pretty animation and storytelling, but I didn’t note very astounding music, though nor did I note anything bad.
VOICE ACTING – I saw this movie subbed. The voices were pretty average for the most part, though I didn’t rather enjoy elder Chiyoko’s performance for some reason. Her emotion, especially near the end of the movie, was just very touching. :3
OVERALL – I really enjoyed this movie, though if I had just been given a synopsis, I probably wouldn’t have been very interested in the first place. Having Satoshi Kon’s name attached to it did help though, and I think this is one of the better examples of his works. The way the story was told just changed everything, including the fact that the plot itself was very simple.