Usually before she'll meet anyone new, the earth has to move

Millennium Actress (千年女優, Sennen Joyū) tells the story of Chiyoko Fujiwara, the former star of Ginei Studios, who retired from acting and withdrew from the world thirty years ago for mysterious reasons.

When Ginei Studios closes down, television interviewer Genya Tachibana and his cameraman, Kyoji Ida, manage to track Chiyoko down for a retrospective interview for their documentary. Upon meeting, Genya presents Chiyoko with an old key, one that she lost at the studio many years ago. Seeing this old keepsake of hers, Chiyoko begins to reflect on her life, her career, and the mysterious man who gave her that key: the love of her life.

As she recounts her story, Genya and Kyoji become immersed—literally!—in its retelling. Weaving together the narratives of Chiyoko's story with those of her films—so much so that they blend together—Millennium Actress is not only a rich portrayal of Japanese history and cinema, but also a celebration of life and the self as it evolves through love and loss.

Was that the key to something important?

A long-time fan of his, Satoshi Kon approached Susumu Hirasawa to compose the music for the film's soundtrack. Hirasawa's music and lyrics were a great influence on Kon's work, and Millennium Actress was their first project together. The two of them became very good friends, collaborating together afterwards on Kon's other projects, including Paprika and Paranoia Agent.

I love Hirasawa's music, and it's certainly a huge part of why Millennium Actress was so memorable for me the first time I saw it. All twelve tracks are wonderful, but special favorites are denoted with a . If you'd like to listen to the soundtrack, there is this playlist on YouTube.

Animated CD MILLENNIUM ACTRESS Original Soundtrack
(アニメ系CD 千年女優 オリジナルサウンドトラック)
  1. Lotus Gate (Landscape-1)
  2. Chiyoko's Theme (千代子のテーマ, Chiyoko no Theme) (MODE-1)
  3. The Gate Of Desire (希求の門 , Kikyu no mon)
  4. Circle in Circle (Kun Mae #3)
  5. Chiyoko's Theme (千代子のテーマ, Chiyoko no Theme) (MODE-2)
  6. Vertical Winds (縦列風, Juretsufu)
  7. Prince of Key (鍵の君, Kagi no kimi)
  8. Log Out (Kun Mae #1)
  9. Chiyoko's Theme (千代子のテーマ, Chiyoko no Theme) (MODE-3)
  10. Run
  11. Actress in Time Layers
  12. Rotation (ロタティオン) (LOTUS-2)

The following is Satoshi Kon's comments regarding the artwork for the soundtrack's cover, taken from his retrospective artbook, The Art of Satoshi Kon. It's just heartwarming to read about how excited he was to work with Hirasawa, and I enjoyed reading what he had to say about this particular piece. I've used this same illustration twice now for this site's layout, and perhaps his words are one of the reasons why I can't imagine using anything else.

Character draft by Satoshi Kon. Finished by director of animation Takeshi Honda.

I really like this one.
Of all the pictures I drew, this is my favorite. It's not that I think it is drawn particularly well, but I think there is nothing more I could add to this to improve it. I feel like the image is complete.
This was used for the CD cover of Susumu Hirasawa's soundtrack, and that made me really happy.
Doing a follow-up to Perfect Blue was a big milestone for me as a director. I had this ambition to get Susumu Hirasawa to do the soundtrack for my second movie.
When he agreed, I found that there is some truth in the old saying, "Dreams really can come true."
Yes. Indeed they can.
I think of that every time I look at this picture. When Hirasawa came to the meeting with his label Chaos Union, I had the idea of floating, and sketched this on a piece of paper. That sketch turned into this picture.
Sometimes I have to work things out, and sometimes images just come to me fully formed. That's how it was with this one. I think its true power comes from Hirasawa's music that this is a wrapping for. They work together.
It's the same kimono she wears in the main visual. She has elements of dreams, like the moon, a crane, a key, and wood grain. It looks like a happy sleep, curled up like a baby. I think this really captures Chiyoko and Millennium Actress, all in a single picture.
There's a lot to be said for trial and error, and I bow my head to the three ladies that helped on Tokyo Godfathers. But I am glad for the inspiration that followed this image, and that it worked so well.

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