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Info:

  • Audio Rating: A+
  • Video Rating: A
  • Packaging Rating: A
  • Menus Rating: B
  • Extras Rating: A
  • Age Rating: 12 & Up
  • Region: 4 - Australia / South America
  • Released By: Madman Entertainment
  • MSRP: 29.95
  • Running time: 83
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
  • Disc Resolution: 480i/p (mixed/unknown)
  • Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
  • Series: Millennium Actress

Millennium Actress

By John Eriani     April 10, 2006
Release Date: March 29, 2006


Millennium Actress
© Madman Entertainment


What They Say
A movie studio is being torn down.

TV interviewer Genya Tachibana has tracked down Chiyoko Fujiwara, the reclusive star of a now derelict studio. Thankful for the interview opportunity, he presents her with a treasured piece of memorabilia " a key that unlocks a tale of life spent searching for a lost love. Drawn into Chiyoko's story, Tachibana bears witness to Japan's past, present and future through the lens of a singular determined purpose.

The Review!
Satoshi Kon's second film is one that transcends simple anime and makes it one of the best films to come out on DVD this year.

Audio:
I watched the show in its original Japanese language. The film has many memorable musical pieces as well as subtle quiet moments and all the different mixes present these well. I didn't notice any distortion or dropouts and everything sounded great with good directionality in the DTS and 5.1 mixes. I spot-checked the English dub and everything seemed to be fine but I still prefer the Japanese language. It's a shame that there are no credits for the English dub though.

Video:
The video is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and enhanced for anamorphic widescreen. While there is film grain there is nothing else to complain about, I didn't notice any interlacing or ghosting which suggest that this film is a true PAL conversion. While at the beginning of Chiyoko's flashbacks the film seems to be muted and almost monochrome this is the directors choice and not the transfer. Colours soon become vibrant and everything within the film looks great. The subtitles are presented in yellow and a easy to read but there was the odd spelling of forget and forgotten, instead of being one word it was always split in two which is a little bit odd.

Packaging:
Similar to the Region 1 and 2 UK release we have a picture of young Chiyoko in her kimono holding her key. Beneath her are images of her in the various films as well as other important characters. The OFLC rating rears its ugly head again and Madman has provided a clean reversible cover to combat the horrible yellow blight on a perfect cover. The back cover has various shots of the film and lists the extras found on the disc. The wording used to describe the Making of feature almost sounds like there is a commentary track and (while there is one its only been available to the region 2 Japanese release) it's a bit misleading. There is also the standard technical grid that Madman has on all their releases. With a reversible cover for this beautiful film there is nothing to complain about here.

Menu:
The main menu is a static image of young Chiyoko holding her key taken from the cover with the ending theme playing in the background. Floral designs border the menu options and flow up the screen. Sub menus were just the same static image from the cover and no music. Everything was quick and easy to access without any problems

Extras:
There are only a few extra's on the disc. The main one is a Making of Featurette with interviews from Satoshi Kon and the various people involved in making the film. It's a good in depth piece that shows how director thought of the overall idea of the film as well as his inspirations. It runs for about 40 minutes and covers all the bases for a making of extra. It's a shame there is no commentary for the film itself included on this release as that would have been really interesting to hear. The other extras are just a trailer for the US release and Madman trailers.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Millennium Actress is one of my favourite films. Anyone who knows me may find that a little strange but this is what watching films is all about. It's a tale of searching for things long lost and not giving up, a magical look at cinema and how memories are our most precious treasure.

The film is the story of Chiyoko Fujiwara; she was once a major film star for the Ginei film studio. The studio is now being torn down and Genya Tachibana is making a documentary about Chiyoko and her career. Genya and his cameraman manage to track Chiyoko down as she has become a recluse for the last 30 years and they go to interview her. From the beginning you can tell that Genya is a big fan of Chiyoko's and he is very excited and honoured to be making a documentary about her. As they arrive Genya presents Chiyoko with an important treasure thought to have been long lost, a key that unlocks the memories of her past in film and in life. The key is very important to Chiyoko as a painter and revolutionary gave it to her when she was a teenager. She helped him escape from the police and from the moment they met she was drawn to him and he became her first love. He left suddenly after the police came close to finding him and Chiyoko has been searching for him ever since.

As she recounts the story of the key and how she was discovered, Genya and his cameraman are drawn into her memories and at first they are unsure of what they are seeing but soon they become part of the memories and films that make up Chiyoko's history. Genya in particular almost takes up immediately into roles within the films and appears to be having the time of his life. Throughout the film he appears as someone who helps Chiyoko when she is in danger, and we even see into his own past and how it connects to Chiyoko.

The film travels through the different roles Chiyoko has played over the years in her various works, from the warring states period and Jidaigeki to monster movies and futuristic sci-fi. The way the film moves from film to Chiyoko's real life is blurred to the point where you are unsure if what is happening is real or if it's part of a film. The way that reality is merged into film here would normally be confusing and distracting but in fact it is one of the best parts of the film. It's not important if it was real or not it's the story that is being told, Chiyoko's search for her first love and that singular purpose. This is a very interesting approach to flashbacks and it's a very unique way to tell a story.

There are so many good things to say about this film that I don't think I could ever write them all down. Susumu Hirasawa creates the music for this wonderful film and being a fan of his music since Berserk I enjoyed every minute of his score, highlights are the remarkable opening and ending sequences that bookend the film. The film is so well paced that not once did I even think about looking at the clock. I was so engrossed in Chiyoko's story that the time flew by and when it ended I felt a warmth about the characters and story that I have not felt while watching a film for a long time. The elements of comedy and sadness work well together to give the viewer a full range of emotion while taking in the film. The characters, story, animation and music are all crafted with such care that you will not forget this film for a long time after the credits have rolled.

This is the type of the film that everyone should see anime fan or not, it gives great legitimacy to animation as a medium and will be a true gem in cinematic history. I think this is Satoshi Kon's best work to date and I am glad that Madman has finally released this for Australian audiences to see.

In Summary:
Not only is this great anime this is great film making. While some may complain that there is no real conclusion to the story it's the journey the film takes us on that is the point. This is a wonderfully warm film with great heart and a genuine love of cinema. Anyone worth their salt as an anime fan needs to have this in their collection; in fact any fan of film in general should pick this up right away you will not be disappointed.

Features
English 5.1 Language,Japanese 5.1 Language,English 6.1 DTS Language,Japanese 6.1 DTS Language,English Subtitles,The Making of Millennium Actress featuring interviews and commentary with Satoshi Kon,US Trailer

Review Equipment
LG 32LX2D 32" HD LCD TV, Sony DVP-NS50P Progressive scan region free DVD player, Monster component cable, Yamaha TSS-15 Home Theatre Sound System

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