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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dan Romascanu - Millennium Actress




Last year's blockbuster Wall-E has probably made the ultimate demonstration that the animation film genre can express anything that actors film can do and more. Millennium Actress is made a few years before Wall-E and may have benefited from less technical expertise but it's consistency, sensitivity, and reverence to the history of the Japanese cinema make it memorable and most remarkably thing, this animation film is one of those fabulous stories about cinema actors that made so many great movies especially in the American cinema.

The story of a TV anchor and his cameraman visiting a retired actress who lives in seclusion many decades after quitting film-making immediately reminds the story of life the fabulous Setsuko Hara, the star of the Japanese screen in the 40s and 50s and preferred actress of director Yasujiro Ozu. The reporter brings the actress a souvenir from her old life, a key which is related to the story of the love of her life, a key to her past life and career that triggers the retelling of her memories in a filmed interview. The series of flashbacks that follow are not simple episodes in her life, but scenes and cinema quotes from her films, and actually from the real films that marked the history of the Japan cinematography. The reporter and the cameraman turn from listeners of the story to witnesses of the scenes and then to participants, the time plans mix and the characters duplicate in time and age, but the characters stay the same in the different film genres and the central line of the story is the same - the seek for love, the endless longing, the perennial sentiment of what starts as a romantic first feelings of a teenager to become a story of love that transcends time and film genres.

The quality of the animation and the beauty of the drawings inspired from the Japanese comics are being put in the service of honoring the peak creations of the more respected Japanese film industry. It is a way of saying that they belong to the same cultural roots, and that the more popular form of art honors its elder tradition. The film however is beautiful and moving beyond its cinematographic history elements. Some of the IMDb comments suggest that the director denied being inspired from the life of Setsuko Hara, but the animated character in the film looks exactly like one of the heroines Setsuko brought to screen, and as viewers we love her as one. The story is direct and moving, it tells about the love of a lifetime. Such simple moving stories make the material of many great works of art and this film comes very close to being one of them.

Dan Romascanu

(Cronici semnate Dan)

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