Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Millenium Actress (2002)

Wonderfully fresh, inventive anime about an aging actress who, while being interviewed about her extraordinary life, recalls, and relives, her lifelong pursuit of a man she only met twice, and in passing. Satoshi Kan, the late creator of the similarly inventive Paprika, makes the narrative intangible and dreamlike, but in a distinctly, and surprisingly, coherent way; the actress' interviewers follow her within her flashbacks, and, sometimes, incorporate themselves into the narrative as characters in her story. This not only makes the ambitious indistinct reality of the piece easier to swallow, it creates a running comic relief, as the two thoroughly modern and bumbling interviewers are nearly always out of place and attempting to properly survey the situation. The animation is stunning, but far more traditional, and less independent of the rules of reality, than Paprika; the period scenes truly evoke the older age of Japanese cinema, which, undoubtedly, was the intention.

The story of the aging actress is touching; it is both simple and detailed, very delicate and feminine, while at the same time creating a strong, resilient survivor out of her character. Her tale is told in broad strokes, with seemingly invisible location and period changes throughout, highlighting the emotional truths over the practical ones. However, coherence is maintained through having her interviewers be just as confused as the audience, and repeatedly attempt to talk themselves through the lack of cohesion in the narrative. A sad irony of the film is that, without giving too much away, one of the actress' secrets parallels the life of Mr. Kan only a few years later; this film stands as a testament to his talent and his strength as an inventive storyteller.

Highly Recommended for fans of animation or of grand (albeit fictional) biopics a la Forrest Gump or The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. While not as groundbreaking or memorable as Paprika, this is the stronger, more touching film.

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