Millennium Actress (Sennen Joyu) (2001)

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Released 29-Mar-2006

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer-US Trailer
Trailer-Area 88 Volume 4, Kyo Kara Maoh! Volume 1
Trailer-Fafner-Arcadian Project Volume 1, Howl's Moving Castle
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 2001
Running Time 83:01
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:22) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Satoshi Kon
Studio
Distributor
Go Fish Pictures
Madman Entertainment
Starring Miyoko Shôji
Mami Koyama
Fumiko Orikasa
Shôzô Îzuka
Shouko Tsuda
Hirotaka Suzuoki
Hisako Kyôda
Kan Tokumaru
Tomie Kataoka
Masamichi Sato
Masaya Onosaka
Masane Tsukayama
Kôichi Yamadera
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $29.95 Music Susumu Hirasawa


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Japanese dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired
English
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Appearing between the dark Perfect Blue and the touching Tokyo Godfathers, Satoshi Kon's second film, Millennium Actress explores the history of Japanese film in the guise of a tragic love story. As the Genei Studios are being torn down, documentary maker Genya Tachibana and his camera-man make their way to the secluded home of the studio's most famous actor Chiyoko Fujiwara. Reminiscent of Japanese actor Setsuko Hara, at the peak of her highly successful career in film Chiyoko suddenly retired, becoming reclusive and refusing all interviews. For Genya, it is an extremely rare privilege to meet his favourite actor and interview her for his new documentary. Now in her seventies, Chiyoko is somewhat vague and reticent about her memories until Genya presents her with a key. Recognizing it as the key to "the most important thing in the world," Chiyoko's memories come flooding back.

    Chiyoko's personal history and the key's place in it blend with her films from the 1940s and 1950s and Genya participates eagerly in recalling the many films that have brought him to tears. Through the years, Chiyoko's sole motivation is to be reunited with the man who first gave her the key and a tragic tale of love just out of reach gradually unfolds. The love story is almost secondary to Satoshi Kon's homage to classic Japanese cinema. Although direct references to films are rare, Millennium Actress captures the directorial style, art design, and costuming of many of the great Japanese directors, particularly those from Shochiku, such as Ozu and Kurosawa. Kon clearly has a great love for these old filmmakers and his is a fitting tribute to their great skill and vision. Certainly a knowledge of Japanese cinema will help one's appreciation for the film, but at the very least Millennium Actress ought to inspire in many viewers a desire to further explore Japanese film.

    Millennium Actress is beautifully animated and directed, and it is easy to forget that you are watching anime. The love story is somewhat predictable, but under Kon's guidance, the voice actors imbue their characters with a strong sense of believability and all but the bitterest of cynics are sure to be caught up by both the drama and sheer joy of the film. Satoshi Kon has only made three films, but he is a director to keep an eye on: in Millennium Actress he is completely on top of his game.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer is very good, but there is plenty of room for improvement. Reducing the number of audio tracks would have certainly made a difference. Millennium Actress is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, very close to its original ratio of 1.85:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    Sharpness and shadow detail are very good, but the transfer loses marks for low level noise. I believe some digital grain has been inserted to give a feeling of older film, but many elements are noisy and macroblocking is often an issue, particularly during rapid motion. Colours are rendered well, without bleeding.

    Macroblocking aside, MPEG artefacts are well controlled. Some aliasing and interlacing are visible. Film artefacts (minor black and white specks) are visible but I suspect that this also a deliberate effect.

    English subtitles and dubtitles (titles for the English dub) are included. Dubtitles are very accurate to the English dialogue and the subtitles translate Japanese dialogue effectively. The layer change occurs at 64:22. Its placing is a little awkward. My review player stumbled a little and both my Teac player and Powerbook had great difficulty negotiating it (layer changes are usually completely undetectable on both).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer is very good. Perhaps a little overkill, but the DVD includes four audio tracks. English (default) and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 and English and Japanese dts 5.1. I listened to the two dts tracks in full and sampled the Dolby Digital tracks. There is very little difference at all between the dts and Dolby Digital versions (the dts tracks sound just a little more open) and the dts audio might just as well have been dropped and the extra disc space devoted to video.

    Dialogue is crisp and clear in all tracks. In both English tracks, however, the dialogue does not integrate with audio as naturally as the Japanese. In the opening scene of the rocket launch, the Japanese dialogue (and general audio) is muffled to sound like it is being watched on a television. The English audio has been recorded to sound as though the events were real.

    Surround activity comes and goes (especially in the first half of the film there is often zero sound in the rears) and most of the action is front and centre. Several scenes, including earthquakes and explosions or when the score moves into a rousing segment, have the entire soundstage jumping to life. On the whole, the audio works very well, and the rear silences are only noticeable occasionally.

    The subwoofer performs some nice work underscoring the music and supporting earthquakes and explosion. To my ear it sounds as though bass has been boosted in both English tracks. The score was composed by Susumu Hirasawa. His music has a driving, forward motion feeling to it and is very active. I can't say that I like it greatly but it works well with the film.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Main Menu Audio & Animation

Featurette-Making Of

    Making Of (40:43) - A Japanese documentary tracing the history of the film's development including interview footage with director Satoshi Kon and other members of the cast and crew.

Theatrical Trailer

    US Trailer (1:05).

Trailer

    Piracy (0:30); Area 88 (1:51); Kyo Kara Maoh! (1:52); Fafner (2:18); Howl's Moving Castle (0:29).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 1 release from Dreamworks includes Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 audio (no English dub) and English and French subtitles. The same making-of is also included. The transfer has received good marks in the reviews I have read.

    The Region 2 Japan release from Bandai includes English subtitles and Japanese Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. A collector's edition was also available including postcards, a 400 page booklet and other extras but is now, I believe, out of print.

    I would call it fairly even, although the Region 1 and Region 2 releases may possibly have better video transfers.

Summary

    Millennium Actress is a beautiful homage to the golden era of Japanese cinema.

    Video is good and audio very good.

    The included documentary is informative and interesting.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Atkinson (read my bio)
Saturday, June 10, 2006
Review Equipment
DVDSony DVP-S336, using Component output
DisplayLG Flatron Widescreen RT-28FZ85RX. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL).
AmplificationYamaha RX-V357
SpeakersDB Dynamics Belmont Series: Fronts: B50F, Centre: B50C, Rears: B50S, Sub: SW8BR

Other Reviews NONE
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DTS Soundtrack vs Video Quality -