The Search Is Everything: MILLENNIUM ACTRESS

Shout! Factory releases a gorgeous restoration of the 2001 classic anime

Satoshi Kon only directed four films, so it’s worth celebrating that his 2001 masterpiece Millennium Actress is now out in a lush restoration & remaster BluRay from Shout! Factory. The animated drama takes actress Chiyoko through centuries — well, really, decades of a young film career at Ginei Studios. As an elderly woman, she reconsiders and relives her past roles while a duo of documentary filmmakers follow along.

From space to 18th Century Japan to the Allied occupation, Chiyoko remains dedicated to her quest: to find the anonymous young artist she met (and became enamored with) as a teen. Constant parallels appear as she takes on different roles in different eras; she is always on the run, determined to find this man, cursed to be ever-searching. There’s an aspect of science-fiction to the work and its layered storytelling. Her personal story is so intertwined with the characters she plays that the distinction between her reality and performance becomes harder to discern.

Kon’s 2001 film is an allusion to the life of Setsuko Hara (Tokyo Story, No Regrets for Our Youth), a prolific Japanese performer who left a successful career as an actress to live in seclusion for the last 50 years of her life. In Kon’s version, Chiyoko opens up to the documentarians about what drew her to work in film and why she left. Millennium Actress is artfully composed. The anime is an ode to movies and their power, wrapped up in a study of obsession.

Special features on the Shout! Factory/Eleven Arts BluRay release:

  • interviews with producers Taro Maki (Tokyo Godfathers, In This Corner of the World) and Masao Maruyama (Perfect Blue)
  • interviews with actresses Laura Post (Eiko) and Abby Trott (Chiyoko), who voice the English audio track
  • both Japanese and English audio tracks
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