After almost a month straight of watching Oscar shortlisted or nominated films, I almost didn’t know what to do with myself today. With no feeling of obligation to watch any specific thing, I chose to cross off a film from my personal list. It’s not especially a blind spot because I don’t think it’s seen as a seminal piece of the cinematic landscape, but it was the only film I had yet to watch by a director I appreciate more and more with each additional film’s first viewing or re-watch of any of his other works.
Millennium Actress (2001, Dir. Satoshi Kon)
We’ll never know how much amazing cinema we lost with the untimely passing of Satoshi Kon. He only made four feature films before unexpectedly passing away from pancreatic cancer at the age of 46, but each one is brilliant in its own way. Much of what makes Kon’s films so spectacular is the editing in his films. He makes frequent use of match cuts to blur scenes and realities together. This combined with shot durations shorter than physically possible lends a frenetic energy to each of his works.
Millennium Actress makes clear use of this cinematic signature by blending an aging actress’s life story with the films that she starred in. When the presumed flashback is first betrayed as a scene from one of her films, the speed of the story begins a constant acceleration as each film receives slightly less time, and the barriers between filmography and memory blur. While this could come across as muddled and confusing in search of the character’s truth, this is not a fault of Kon’s. Rather, the muddled events between Chiyoko Fujiwara’s career and life reflect the duality of her life. Satoshi Kon’s style works perfectly to express the complexities of the human experience in this mock biopic.