Brilliant movie! This is the first time I have watched anything by Satoshi Kon, one of the most well-respected directors in the industry, and I can safely say that I've fallen in love with his style already.
I have to admit, I didn't entirely understand the storyline. It's execution is far more complex than its premise will have you believe. The story is basically two documentary-makers interviewing an actress, Chiyoko Fujiwara, from the olden days of cinema about her life. What makes its it all the more interesting is that the interviewers are quite literally immersed in the flashbacks, often taking on characters from her life or her movies. The story blurs the line between reality and movie-world and it is often difficult to decipher if we are watching one of Chiyoko's films or part of her life.
The animation holds up well, with some beautiful images being brought forth. One in particular that sticks with me is the ending with the rocketship, flying over earth and into the big, white vortex... I won't tell you what this symbolises just that it was a wonderful way to end the film.
Easily the highlight for me was the music. While I've read other reviews saying that the music wasn't anything great or memorable, I just don't understand how they could say that. The music was emotional, amazing and fit the mood of the film PERFECTLY. It enhanced the movie to a somewhat spiritual level, for me. The song during the final credits is also very beautiful. The english dub voice actors were pretty good, didn't detract from the movie at all. Though I reckon next time I watch it it will be in Japanese with subtitles.
What truly makes this film as amazing as it is, is the central character Chiyoko. Loveable and strong-willed, you see almost her whole life unfold before your very eyes in just over 80 minutes. Never once did it feel rushed (though that should probably go back up to the 'story' part of the review. Oh well.) By the end you feel the utmost awe for this woman, and once the film ends its surprising what an impact she makes. The documentary-maker Genya is also a fascinating and likeable character, who adds a great deal of depth to the story.
Millennium Actress is a must-see, and definitely more than once! It is quite an artsy film and a bit hard to understand, but if you keep an open mind I highly doubt you will find much to dislike here. A wonderful experience.