***½/**** Image A- Sound A Extras B
screenplay by Satoshi Kon and Sadayuki Murai
directed by Satoshi Kon
**½/**** Image A Sound A Extras C+
screenplay by Keiko Nobumoto and Satoshi Kon
directed by Satoshi Kon and Shôgo Furuya
by Walter Chaw Four years separate Satoshi Kon's astonishing Perfect Blue and his astonishing Millennium Actress; it seems that what the intervening period brought to Kon's palette is a strong sense of visual humour and an affecting pathos to cut the existential dread of his identity crises--the year or two distancing Tokyo Godfathers from Millennium Actress further refining Kon as a humorist even as it blunted his razor's edge. Where Perfect Blue is the first film in decades to use Hitchcock correctly in a sentence, it still fails for the most part to jump from horror to hilarity on the turn of a heel, making its story of an actress being stalked by a doppelgänger brilliant, no question, but also relentlessly grim. Millennium Actress takes many of the same themes (down to the same basic structure) of performance and meta-reality, stage and screen, cradling them in a story about a man's lifetime of unrequited love for an actress, herself suffering from a lifetime's unrequited love for a mysterious revolutionary. Both threads entwine in a mutual affection for the life of the cinema, which, by film's end, serves as the ends and the means by which their respective love stories are resolved. Like Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress is about living with ghosts, but where the one is all shadow, Millennium Actress is all alight.