1000 Years of Magic
- Episodes : 1 (film)
- Genre : Drama, Adventure, Historical, Fantasy
- Airing Date : August 13, 2019 (Subtitled), August 19, 2019 (New English dub)
- Original Release : July 28, 2001
- Studios : Madhouse
We’re excited to share that Eleven Arts and Fathom Events are launching a theatrical re-release of Satoshi Kon’s award-winning Millennium Actress this month! Besides being digitally remastered in both subtitled and brand-new dub versions, the film will also be followed up by a conversation with Millennium Actress producers, Taro Maki and Masao Maruyama. In accordance, we’re bringing you our review of the film itself, impressions of the theatrical experience and restoration, and links to ticket and theater information. Roll film, let’s go!
Sennen Joyuu (Millennium Actress) Introduction and Story
With the newly bankrupt Ginei Studios set to be demolished at the start of the new millennium, filmmaker Genya Tachibana sets out to create a documentary of the studio’s most famous star, Chiyoko Fujiwara, as a tribute to her and the once-great studio. Dragging along his reluctant cameraman assistant Kyouji Ida to the countryside, the two are finally able to meet with the reclusive actress who hasn’t given an interview in years.
Thus begins an imaginative retelling of Chiyoko’s life that weaves in her discovery as an actress at the height of World War II, an encounter with a mysterious painter and political revolutionary, a mystical curse, and the stories of her films into a reality-bending tale encompassing a thousand years of history. Genya and Kyouji find themselves literally pulled into Chiyoko’s stories, first as spectators and then as active participants, gradually discovering more details in the interconnected metanarrative.
Millennium Actress Trailer
1. Unparalleled Satoshi Kon Storytelling
With echoes of Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon and Satoshi Kon’s previous film Perfect Blue, the way Millennium Actress tells its story is incredibly innovative in how it blends memory, imagination, and multiple perspectives together into a single narrative. Using movies as metaphors offers an interesting parallel to how we view our own lives and collective subconscious. The basics of the story on paper, a woman searching desperately for the man she loves after a chance encounter, is simple but elevated to amazing heights by this creative approach. Genya’s idolization of Chiyoko also provides an intriguing flipside to Perfect Blue’s characterization of fandom, offering another layer of enjoyment for Satoshi Kon aficionados.
2. Susumu Hirasawa Soundtrack
Millennium Actress was actually the first collaboration between Satoshi Kon and his personal favorite musical artist Susumu Hirasawa but also remains one of their greatest. Like the film itself, Hirasawa’s score has elements that play with old and new creating a sort of amplified feeling of nostalgia mixed with a pulsing, almost futuristic energy with an air of mysticism. This score is quintessentially Hirasawa with soaring, heavily processed vocals accompanied by pronounced arpeggiated synths, cementing him as one of the most iconic composers to work in anime. Tracks like "Run" and "Rotation [lotus-2]" remain some of his greatest works to date.
3. Beautiful Art and Animation
As expected for a Madhouse movie production, Millennium Actress has strong production values across the board. Seeing these visuals brought to life in the new digital restoration is a big treat, showcasing the intricate details of the hand-drawn backgrounds and subtle character animations beautifully. What stands out most, however, is the brilliant editing that seamlessly blends past and present and movie and reality. The plethora of match-cuts and other clever camerawork techniques make the film consistently visually spectacular and surprising from start to finish. There are some great sakuga moments as well like Chiyoko and Eiko’s ninja battle and her horseback ride through history.
4. Unique Setting
Millenium Actress’ wide-ranging settings add further charm. The historical aspect, particularly the depiction of the leadup and aftermath of World War II in Japan and Manchukuo (a former Japanese-controlled country in northeast China) isn’t often seen in anime. This is likewise true with the film-inspired scenes from Chiyoko’s career referencing Showa-era movies from samurai flicks to Godzilla-like kaiju. Both Genya’s in-universe film and this movie itself are love-letters to the great works of cinema of the past millennium, showing Kon’s own love of live-action movies. An interesting choice, particularly for an anime, that makes Millenium Actress stand out.
Altogether, Millennium Actress is a masterpiece of animation and arguably the greatest work from the legendary Satoshi Kon. With its creative storytelling and theming, rich soundtrack, and striking visual flair accentuated by superb editing, Millennium Actress is a film every anime and movie fan should see at least once, and this new digital restoration is the perfect way to experience it! It’s delightful that this re-release is bringing this film into theaters once again, and the new English dub is a solid addition as well, especially for North American fans that never got one for the original release. Millennium Actress continues its legacy towards a thousand years of magic!
Tickets & Theater Information available from Fathom Events:
There will be two screenings in select theaters across America:
Tuesday, August 13 at 7:00 p.m. local time (in Japanese, subtitled in English)
Monday, August 19 at 7:00 p.m. local time (new English dub)
We hope you enjoyed this review! Let us know your own thoughts in the comments section below and be sure to stick around Honey’s for more of all things awesome, anime and otherwise. See you at the movies~!