Sennen Joyuu poster

Sennen Joyuu

At the turn of the millennium, Ginei Studio's dilapidated buildings are set to be demolished. Ex-employee and filmmaker Genya Tachibana decides to honor this occasion with a commemorative documentary about the company's star actress: Chiyoko Fujiwara, the reclusive sweetheart of Shouwa Era cinema. Having finally obtained permission to interview the retired starlet, an enamored Genya drags along cynical cameraman Kyouji Ida to meet her, ready to put his lifelong idol back in the spotlight once more. Hidden in this secluded mountain retreat is a thousand years of history condensed into one lifetime, waiting to be narrated. Chiyoko's recollections take them on an illusionary journey through Japanese cinematic history that transcends the boundaries of reality; the saga of her acting career intertwines with her filmography, the actors in her life blend seamlessly with the characters on screen, and the present melds with the past. Though the actress may have retired at the height of her career 30 years ago, the curtain on her life's stage has yet to fall. [Written by MAL Rewrite]

Ranking 869

User Count13614
Favorites Count349
Start Date14th Sep 2001
Next ReleaseInvalid date
Popularity Rank869
Rating Rank511
Age RatingPG
Age Rating GuideTeens 13 or older


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Millennium Actress is a movie about a life well lived. It's a story of a character through the decades, told through film as her life as her life through film. Beautifully animated and scored, but it's the story that captures the heart. It's worth every second and thoughtfully presented through an engaging narrative and dynamic camera. Amazing in many ways, and definitely worth watching and thinking about.

**As always, my reviews are spoiler free.** ***MAL-era import review; please excuse my lack of experience.***{::}**** Millennium Actress is another work of the late Satoshi Kon, a man who had an amazing ability to blur the lines between reality and dreams, even in a medium of almost entirely fiction. And like his other works, Millennium Actress doesn’t just tell a story, but takes you on a journey through the world and through the human mind. In this film, the viewer travels through decades of the life of the famous actress Chiyoko Fujiwara, following her as she chases a man she once met and a dream that she is always one step behind. **Story** - **10/10** The story begins when a reporter and fan of Chiyoko’s work, Genya, is sent with his cameraman to interview her about her rich career as an actress over the past several decades. In his possession is a key that belonged to Chiyoko that he had been in possession of for years, always looking for a chance to return it to her. When he presents it to her, she is taken aback. When Genya asks if the key was to something important, she responds, “To the most important thing in the world.” What follows is one of the most beautiful and creative methods of storytelling I have had the pleasure to see. The “interview” that Genya has with Chiyoko transforms into a visual story of her life which Genya observes as a 3<sup>rd</sup> party. It begins with Chiyoko as a teenager growing up in late 1930s Japan. She has a chance encounter with a mysterious man, and her life changes forever. Chiyoko sees a hooded figure running from police, chooses on a whim to misdirect them, and shelters the wounded man. He tells her stories of his beautiful home promising to take her there when Japan comes to a time of peace. Noticing something around his neck, she asks what it is, and he answers that it is “the key to the most important thing in the world.” She asks to ponder what it could be over night, and they promise to meet again the next day. However, he is gone, and lines between reality and film begin to blur. Suddenly she is chasing the mysterious man on a train down railway station, collapsing to her knees in tears. She vows to find him. Genya, having observed this, remarks that “he cried 53 times at this scene.” What follows is a story of Chiyoko’s life as an actress, traveling around the world and through time, always chasing down a man whose name she didn’t even know. Through place and time, the viewer and Genya follow her through movie sets and reality, demonstrating some of the best cinematography in the animated medium, full of flawless transitions and symbolism. It has to be seen to be believed. I cannot go into the ending without revealing spoilers, but it contains one of the most amazing twists and beautiful endings I have seen in any film. **Animation - 9/10** Anyone familiar with other works of Satoshi Kon and animated by Studio Madhouse will be familiar with the style of Millennium Actress. Though it has aged significantly, being aired over 10 years ago, the detail and fluidity of the animation is still quite apparent. Character models are detailed and constantly varying to fit the time and place they happen to find themselves in. This is another strength of the animation; unlike many series and movies which confine themselves to the same locales, this film takes place in dozens of completely varied sets, from science fiction to feudal Japan. It makes these transitions so smoothly that it can be almost startling; a few minutes pass and without your noticing time has changed by decades, all demonstrated through the films that Chiyoko stars in. The amount of effort that was taken to put in this level of detail must have been monumental. While some may be bothered by the dated style at first, you will likely lose yourself to the story in no time at all, and come away actually enjoying the art style at the end. ***Definitely some Satoshi Kon strangeness at work here*** **Sound - 6/10** Unfortunately, the soundtrack was not especially impressive. While it always matched the ever-changing setting, it was never memorable. In fact, large portions of the movie are totally silent. The voice acting was quite good, however. **Characters - 9/10** Chiyoko is really the only notable character here. Genya is at heart an insert or companion for the viewer, and the mysterious man she chases is treated as closely to an object as a person. Chiyoko, however, has beautiful development throughout the story both as a person and an actress. Her motives are a bit unclear, but her single-minded determinedness to track down the man from her childhood gives her a level of development that few movie leads can match. In fact, the only competition in my mind is Mima from Perfect Blue, another of Kon’s fantastic works. By the end of the film, the viewer has lived Chiyoko’s entire life with her, and will be so invested in her story that the ending will feel unbelievably personal. She feels like a lifelong friend by the time the credits finally roll. **Enjoyment - 9/10** This film was captivating from beginning to end. Only Kon can make movies like this, where the viewer feels more like a character than a simple observer. The level of detail and thought that went into the cinematography and settings this movie explores is simply phenomenal. **Other Thoughts** I’ll end with the same quote I opened with: “After all, it’s the chasing after him I really love.” By the end of the film, the very exploration of a life itself, these words will hit you like nothing ever has before.

Critic’s Log - Earthdate: November 18, 2013. Review #67: Millennium Actress. Keys open doors, and keys can even be used as a symbolic meaning such as a key to endless possibilities, a key to imagination, and even a key to someone’s heart. Doors can be used as a symbol as well. But a key is always used with doors and anything else that has a lock. This may not translate well in the written word or even many novels that have been written years ago and even today, but it can be painted in art and even film. Enough with the philosophical stuff, I would probably get way over your heads. Please forgive me, Here’s **Millennium Actress!** When Studio Ginei commissions filmmaker Genya Tachibana to make a documentary in commemoration of its 70th anniversary, he travels to a secluded mountain lodge to interview the person he looked up to of his youth, the enigmatic Chiyoko Fujiwara, who was the studio's leading lady from the 1930s until the 1960s. As Chiyoko reminisces about her life, Tachibana and his cameraman suddenly find themselves on a rich and dazzling journey through time. Chiyoko's films and personal memories intertwine with present events and stretch the boundaries of reality. To be technical, this is a Studio Madhouse production, and you should know what that means. The animation is going to be great. With all due respect, that is to be expected when we are talking about Madhouse and feature films. Of course the budget is going to be higher than a Anime show. What I will say about Millennium Actress regarding this is that it is Satoshi Kon’s visual masterpiece. Every single moment is animated well. There are some moments that don’t move much, but it’s still animated well. The way the animation moves looks incredible and it really is a visual treat. Not only does it look outstanding, it also has some experimental techniques that give the movie some uniqueness which does fit in the movie if you look at it in a certain point of view. The movie is also quite symbolic as well and the animation helps with this too. Even color is symbolized to an extent in this film and it’s pretty subtle. The animation and visuals makes this film worth looking into, it is not the most important factor of Millennium Actress yet it helps greatly. The music by Susumu Hirasawa is an interesting part about the movie. The past is set in the 1930’s and 1940’s, The music is electronical and even some techno. This would raise a good question Would this even fit the settings? The answer: Surprisingly, Yes!. Like Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress blends reality and fantasy. The music is also in great contrast with the historical setting that part of the movie has even though in a fictional sense it is still bringing up real events in the 40’s. The music fits if you are able to see where I’m getting at. I will however let you be the judge about this whole thing. As for the soundtrack itself, it is atmospheric and compliments the movie really well. Susumu Hirasawa really knows how to tone his music. This movie was 5 years after he did the soundtrack for Berserk, which was an amazing soundtrack to listen to outside the show. With Millennium Actress, this is one of the soundtrack that proves that Hirasawa-san is a musical “artist”. It is also a great soundtrack to listen to without the movie. As for the voice acting, The Japanese cast is really good. Fumiko Orikasa is great as the Teenage Chiyoko. Miyoki Shoji plays her role just fine as the elder Chiyoko. Koichi Yamadera is also pretty good as the Man of the Key. Shozo Iizuka plays his part well as Genya Tachibana, and Masaya Onosaka sounds like his usual self as the cameraman Kyoji Ida. The cast is mostly great and they don’t disappoint. As for the English Dub, Well… There is no English Dub to this one sadly, unless you’re from the United Kingdom. Since I live in America and there is no English Dub to this movie, I will not discuss the “UK Dub” to this movie. Come to think of it, I think having no dub to this movie may not be such a huge problem after all. The movie is rich with Japanese culture and history, it  also has homages to movies too. I was surprised to see homages like Godzilla, Seven Samurai, and even a bit of 2001: A Space Odyssey. For someone such as myself, I get a bit of a kick when I see stuff like this… A kick in a good way. I am totally fine that no Dub exists in this movie and come to think of it. With a movie that is rich with Japanese culture and history, It would fit perfectly in the Japanese language because of obvious reasons. Some Americans do like an English Dub to these sort of things when it comes to Anime, but to be perfectly honest it would be a little alienating to some of those who are watching this movie in an English Dub if the movie is rich with Japanese culture and history. Just saying. I like watching Anime Subtitled and Dubbed. But since no English Dub exists for where I am at, I will say that this movie shouldn’t be looked over because of that. It is a must-see for it’s visuals. As far as characters are concerned, Chiyoko is the main star and she gets most of the viewer’s attention (which is fitting). Genya Tachibana isn’t a bad character at all and he does have his traits that make him relatable to those that have some degree to an obsession over a famous or not so famous actor or actress as well as voice actors and voice actresses. This makes Genya less one-dimensional. The cameraman Kyoji Ida does not develop much because well… he’s the cameraman. Then of course there’s the Man of the Key and he has the more mysterious role in this movie, so I won’t go into much detail about that. If character development is what you’re looking for, you might want to give Millennium Actress a pass for this. Chiyoko has all the development here, everyone else has medium to minor development and with this kind of movie, I don’t have much of a problem with this, it is somewhat fitting. What is debateable throughout the whole movie is the narrative. It does have a plot, it does develop, but it is told in such a non-linear fashion that it will be hard to keep track for most people on their first viewing of the movie. I will say that this movie does have a very high re-watch value because of that and because of the visuals. There is a great deal of flashbacks and that is where it can prove difficult to understand. This movie does blend reality and fantasy quite well, and this would not be the last time that Satoshi Kon would do this because Kon-san’s trademark is that he integrates fantasy into reality in his storytelling. He is quite a visionary. This non-linear characteristic is both the film’s strength and weakness. The story is told by the eyes of Chiyoko, and with all the stuff that may confuse people. This was a good method of storytelling because of the films that Chiyoko is in. The weakness is that Tachibana and Ida were part of it making it a little confusing and ambiguous. But in spite of that, the story is still good and it really is a visual masterpiece for Satoshi Kon. Millennium Actress was available by Dreamworks and Go Fish Pictures, for some reason. This movie is becoming hard to find and it’s price in places like Amazon are quite high. My guess is that it is out of print, maybe because Go Fish Pictures has been defunct since 2007. With all that said, Millennium Actress is one of the masterpieces of Satoshi Kon despite flaws. Its Animation is incredible and a visual treat. The characters are mostly fine and Chiyoko fittingly has the spotlight for most of the film, The music is terrific and from a damn good composer. The story even with its flaws is touching and does not disappoint. This is a very unique anime film that you really should see. I give Millennium Actress a 9 out of 10, it is EXCELLENT! Feel free to leave a comment. After all this time, Reviewing anime hasn’t bored me in the slightest.

Still crisscrossing the fine line separating dream from reality, Satoshi Kon, with Sennen Joyuu, pushes the boundaries of animation by presenting a kaleidoscopic story-like declaration of love in Japan and his cinema. Both epic historical fresco of that meticulous intimate portrait, of this great complex ambitious film breaststroke themes presented through a bewildering graphic work. It also demonstrates, if any were needed, mastery of cinematic language and dramatic of a writing director at the top of his art. Formerly one of the greatest actresses of Japanese cinema, Chiyoko Fujiwara abrupt end to his career and bodies and souls disappeared from the public scene in the 80s. One of his greatest admirers, Genya Tachibana documentary filmmaker, accompanied by his cameraman decides to interview 30 years later on the occasion of the anniversary of Studio Ginei which she was spearheading. Managing to trace him in an isolated dwelling, he presented her a mysterious key that will effectively open the doors of his memory and will plunge into an adventure retracing the film career of the actress. Transcending notions of time and space, traveling from past to future lived fantasized, reliving his pursuit of a chimerical love and thus trace the turbulent history of Japan from feudal times to the present. Perfect Blue have won a great success in Japan, the Madhouse studio ask Satoshi Kon to design a new film also based on confusion between dream and reality in order to further explore once this two-headed fantasy universe steeped seems seduce the public. Interested in this concept, the director and his co-writer Sadayuki Murai imagine in 2001 a biographical fresco trompe l'oeil tribute to Japan and his cinema : Sennen Joyuu. Thus, if Perfect Blue exploring the maze of a mind fragmented by social pressure and even blurred the boundary between reality and imagination, Sennen Joyuu completely erase this demarcation. Chiyoko's past, his experiences as an actress and the main plot of the film are therefore completely intertwined to form a single narrative canvas. If in his first feature film Satoshi Kon used this confusion switching between fantasy and lived to serve the story, the method used here is a spine to this movie. Conceptual work, this film is a real field of experimentation for Kon and colleagues who are having a field day. By intersect different times with no real visible transitions in one fluid motion and virtuoso, Satoshi Kon seems to represent our perception of time and the chaotic aspect of our memory. Indeed Sennen Joyuu present an anarchic and subjective sense of time and memory. An incomplete puzzle of which there were only a few important pieces, immutable disparate moments that define a life. Sennen Joyuu is thus freed from any temporal linearity and offers an almost organic narration made back-and-forth. Past, present and future collide to form a harmonious mosaic of memories and impressions. The visual and the ubiquitous proliferation movement throughout the film making accentuate this impression of controlled chaos. For despite the disparity of all flown events, these small chronic fit together perfectly to form a coherent whole imbued with a great historical and philosophical resonance. A well-oiled machine bearer of a genuine message on the driving force of will and perseverance! Even more daring and sophisticated than that of Perfect Blue, Sennen Joyuu mounting manages to improve the fluidity of the transitions between real and unreal, past, present and future, using fittings looks or plans of values, the film can take a leap of 200 years in time from one plane to the other without it we seem forced or awkward. On a first plan, an prominent character from the scope at some point in a feudal castle, The following plan, the same character dressed differently is part at the opposite point in a radically changed environment while never parasitizing the readability of the action. Also playing on simple effects, Sennen Joyuu minimizes the flashy side of his gimmick and provides a nice consistency to the set. Great art! The pace of crosscutting making a succession of plans with no temporal simultaneity connecting them is accelerating as the film progresses. It finds his climax towards the end of the film in a hallucinatory scene chase during which Chiyoko spans the years on horseback, by bicycle, carriage and automobile in a dynamic series of beautifully illustrated very disparate planes inspired by the engraving Japanese. A beautiful metaphor of mutation and resurrection, highlighted by a free approach and almost surreal narrative Kon Satoshi deepen few years later with Paprika! In Sennen Joyuu, the link between the real world and the world of memories Chiyoko is represented by the figure of the fan: the debonair documentary Genya Tachibana, Unlike Perfect Blue where the fanatic was treated as a psychotic be on the margins of society, it is a central figure here, omnipotent and benevolent. Able to cross the mirror to enter the fictional world of Chiyoko, it is not just a spectator of his dreamlike drifts but also actor. Interacting with his idol in his world remembered, we discover later that it was part of his past and he has with it a discreet and considerate relationship for years. Chiyoko's guardian angel in the real world as in his reminiscences of past experiences, it embodies the perfect opposite of Mimaniac of Perfect Blue, a man full of respect to listen to the one he loves most. But the real tour of force of Millennium Actress is to address a personal story to tell the story of Japan on a larger scale. the begining of Chiyoko in cinema in the 40s during the occupation of Manchuria at the Tokyo bombing in 1945 through the post-war period, it's all a part of the history of Japan presented to us. The film career of the actress even allows us to discover with great detail the feudal period of the warlords, the Edo period and finally the Meiji Restoration of 19th century samurai and his revolt. Through this mural is also the story of the film industry of the country that is told. Chiyoko's figure itself seems to refer to several legendary Japanese actresses. Some scenes from movies obviously very inspired by the general Yasujirō Ozu by the accumulation of fixed median planes with a camera placed at ground level, suggest that your heroine would be a fictionalized version of one of his favorite actresses: Setsuko Hara. Moreover, as Chiyoko, she abandoned her career at the height of his leaving definitively guessing. But it would be simplistic to limit Chiyoko to one model because it can also be inspired by one of the greatest actresses of the Japanese post-war: Hideko Takamine, who won over audiences with roles of courageous women and obstinate face the traditional family system. Note also a beautiful tribute to the Throne of Blood (Kumo no Sujo) of the master Akira Kurosawa in a medieval sequence featuring Chiyoko in a role comparable to that of Lady Asaji Washizu Isuzu Yamada starring in the film 1957. Also the figure of the old woman spinning wool and cursing Chiyoko is also taken from this same film. Observers spectators will also note a quick glance but obvious Ishirō Honda, dad of Godzilla in a brief scene referring to the work of Toho. Finally, impossible not to perceive a quote from 2001, space odyssey through these splendid combining spatial plans as Kubrick knew how science fiction and metaphysical speculation in contemplative sequences footprints of great poetry. A beautiful film echoes of the great American filmmaker creating a link between these two visionary creators. Two authors knowing push the boundaries of their mediums while offering the public an abundant experience and yet accessible. By building a solid frame yet composed of many contrasting narrative son, Satoshi Kon, with Sennen Joyuu, brings a work that is both intimate and grandiose controlled from start to finish. Mixing small and great story to tell the odyssey of his heroine, it transports the viewer into a succession of artificially linked to each other by sequence of Chiyoko's motivation. He resumed in that the concept of "narrative blocks unsinkable" invented by Stanley Kubrick articulating his film with easily identifiable narrative entities serving as anchors to his film points. Developing an undeniable global unity through a work staging and remarkable cutting, Kon therefore wins with high hands this bold gamble, managing to create a coherent and clear film despite its experimental ambitions.  A balancing act whose design was certainly a real headache. Not surprisingly, the next movie Satoshi Kon, Tokyo Godfathers, follows a more traditional scheme. 

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