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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 25%
Average: 3.57%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 10.71%

1 review, 22 user ratings

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Millenium Actress
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by Brian McKay

"life is the thrill of the chase - even if you're chasing a shadow"
4 stars

An anime' anthem of unrequited love that spans nearly three-quarters of a century, MILLENIUM ACTRESS is the tale of a young Japanese woman who found fame as a movie star while harboring an obsessive love for a man she hardly knew. While the animation is beautiful, the film's real hook is its non-linear and fantasy-laden approach to storytelling.

Growing up in pre-war Japan, Chiyoko Fujiwara (played from younger to older ages by Fumiko Orikasa, Mami Koyama, Miyoko Shoji, respectively) is a typical girl who lives with her stern mother and helps her run a candy shop. But when a talent agent sees star potential in her, he tries to convince her to go to Manchuria to act in Ginei Studio's latest production.

At first Chiyoko's mother refuses to let her go. But one night Chiyoko crosses paths with a mysterious young man on the run from the police. She helps him hide from them in her family's storehouse, and promptly falls in love with the young man, a painter and a protestor who is wanted on charges of anti-government propaganda. The young man flees to find some friends in Manchuria, but not before leaving a key in Chiyoko's posession for safekeeping "until we meet again".

Fueled by her newfound love for the stranger, she runs off to star in the movie anyway - even though the only reason she's really interested in it is because it's set in Manchuria, where she hopes to find the young man again. She doesn't find him, but she does find herself suddenly propelled into the limelight, rising to become one of Japan's biggest post-war movie stars. All of it, however, feels rather empty, since her quest to find the man seems to grow increasingly futile.

Much of Chiyoko's life story is told through non-linear flashbacks, as the 70-year old Chiyoko, now living in seclusion, grants an interview to director Genya Tachiban (Shozo Izuka) and his less-than-enthusiastic cameraman, Junichi Ootaki (Hirotaka Suzuoki). As Chiyoko relates her story, Genya and Junichi become magically transported into Chiyoko's past and are there with her as events occur. At first, they are passive witnesses, but soon become participants themselves. Genya, a long-time fan of Chiyoko's who has always had a crush on her, begins to take the role of Chiyoko's savior and confidante from era to era, both in "real-life" events and the narratives of her past films. In both real life and her films, the central theme always remains her pursuit of the mysterious lover, with the faithful Genya by her side in a variety of guises, and the unimpressed Junichi tagging along in contemporary street clothes to document it all.

Overall, Millenium Actress is a fanciful little tale, with ample doses of humor, warmth, and tragedy. While at times it can be a bit silly or melodramatic, never packing the dramatic punch of something like Grave of the Fireflies, Chiyoko and Genya are sympathetic characters, with Junichi providing most of the humorous context (as Chiyoko leaps from era to era in one scene, with Genya following close behind and wearing an outdated suit of Samurai armor, Junichi nonchalantly points out "You're dressed all wrong for the period").

While the plot can be a bit confusing at times with all of the leaping from reality to fantasy and past to present, MILLENIUM ACTRESS paints a vivid portrait, blending pathos and Chiyoko's unrequited love with a rich collage of Japanese history. While it may not be embraced by the SPIRITED AWAY or GHOST IN THE SHELL type of crowd, those who enjoy anime' with more mature dramatic elements and an outside-the-box approach to narrative structure should find MILLENIUM ACTRESS worth their 87 minutes.

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originally posted: 05/19/04 09:48:33
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User Comments

5/24/08 cory nomura Beautiful film with a highly relatable emotional resonance. You will not forget this film. 5 stars
2/21/06 Annie G Fascinating. Confusing. Weird. (Think Paranoia Agent with less time invested!) 4 stars
3/27/05 Victor Toledo It's an excellent film. 5 stars
2/28/05 Phil M. Aficionado Inventive, confusing, layered. 3 stars
7/26/04 Ricardo Illescas I really liked it 5 stars
7/25/04 Ivy It started a bit confusing, but I eventually was drawn deep into the story. A must see. 5 stars
7/07/04 Mirell Beautiful & touching!! (I cried together with Tachibana in the end) Simply the best! 5 stars
4/19/04 gibbs i realized it wasnt in english, if i wanted to read i'd buy a book, i returned it unopened 1 stars
1/21/04 Vince Really well done. 5 stars
1/03/04 ank_hara Intelligent anime. Obviously some people just don't get it. 5 stars
12/13/03 JB Made absolutely no sense. Worst anime I have ever seen. 1 stars
11/18/03 venessia gonzalez This is one of the best films I have ever seen in my life. Thank you Satoshi Kon-Sama 5 stars
11/08/03 Tiffany Namwong The film is a thousand lotuses blooming at once. 5 stars
11/05/03 Tony Desland Beautiful story, one of my favorites! 5 stars
10/15/03 James Instant Classic 5 stars
10/13/03 pseudonymph An excellent anime! Mr. Disappointed, you are a moron. 5 stars
10/12/03 the sleeper see this film or die 5 stars
9/26/03 Mr. Disappointed Horseshit! Impossible to recommend a movie that is virtually inaccessible to the public!! 1 stars
9/23/03 Lars Kristiansson A must see 5 stars
9/13/03 gwalla Imagine an animated Citizen Kane, but more deeply felt. See it before it leaves theaters! 5 stars
9/11/03 Alice Bentley Beautiful and intricate - worth seeing in the theatre not just DVD 5 stars
9/10/03 Rob Loved it! 5 stars
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