Millennium Actress (2001)

Rating: B+

Dir: Satoshi Kon
Star (voice): Miyoko Shôji, Mami Koyama, Fumiko Orikasa, Shôzô Îzuka

A pair of film-makers interview former actress Chiyoko, now in her seventies, about her life, and how much of it has been spent seeking the man she first encountered as a teenage girl – many of her roles reflect the same theme. As her tale is told, the interviewers get drawn in, and find themselves appearing alongside her in the stories. The documentary director has been enamored of Chiyoko since working as a young studio hand with her in the 60’s, and takes on various roles, making apparent the deep connection he has with her. This odd turn of events totally bemuses his cameraman, a nice touch which helps keep the audience grounded.

And we need all the grounding we can get, because this has the same dense, layered style as Perfect Blue (also from Kon), and is handy as we try to separate memory from movies. If you know Japanese cinema, you’ll likely glean more from this, since Chikoyo’s progress through life is mirrored in her career, but even novices will likely be drawn in and ensnared by a poignant love-story, up until the end when the secret of Chiyoko’s life is revealed. Susumu Hirasawa’s musical score is also worthy of praise. Though as Chris pointed out, you can argue a case for the heroine being a stalker, there’s a reason Dreamworks made this their contender for the Animated Feature Oscar, not Sinbad. Cel animation lives