The Barbican is running a season with a fantastic title, Cinema Matters: Bigger than Life and it’s all about how cinema has changed the world and the stars on the big screen who become legends. Think about the mega-stars of Japanese film history and you will come up with Toshiro Mifune and Setsuko Hara, both of whom worked with the great directors of the Golden Age in many classics and both of whom, some might say, were profoundly Japanese in their behaviour and emblematic of their nation’s ideals on masculinity and femininity.
The two might be highly important in the way the wider world views Japan but only Setsuko Hara got an anime movie more or less made about her and that movie will be screened at the Barbican. It’s the Satoshi Kon classic Millennium Actress and it will be screened on July 03rd at 20:45.
Here are the details:
Release Date: September 14th, 2002
Running Time: 83 mins.
Director: Satoshi Kon
Writer: Satoshi Kon (Screenplay),
Starring: Fumiko Orikasa (Chiyoko Fujiwara), Shouzou Iizuka (Genya Tacibana), Masaya Onosaka (Kyouji Ida), Kouichi Yamadera (Man of the Key),
Synopsis from the Barbican: One very obvious way the movies have changed the world is by giving us the movie star.
Issues of stardom – and fandom – are at the heart of this sweeping Japanese animation by Satoshi Kon (Paprika, Perfect Blue). Actress Chiyoko Fujiwara, an icon of 1950s cinema but now retired and living in seclusion, is visited one afternoon by a devoted fan wanting to make a documentary about her career. As they – and we, the audience – plunge back into her past, we hop between events in her real and her on-screen life in roles in a variety of genres and time-periods.
Conceived as a homage to the samurai epics, domestic dramas, space odysseys and monster movies of post-WW2 Japanese cinema, the film sets up further resonances in the character of Chiyoko herself who recalls both Hideko Takamine, an icon of hope for post-war Japanese filmgoers, and Setsuko Hara, one of Yazujiro Ozu’s favourite actresses, who disappeared from the public eye at the height of her stardom.