Satoshi Kon makes films which happen to be animated. He stands out from the rest of the pack with his choice of subject matter, the depth of his films and his ability to tell a story in a very interesting way. He also uses films to make social commentary.
I may not like all of his work but I appreciate the man’s talent.
This native of Hokkaido, Japan is the director of “Perfect Blue”, “Tokyo Godfathers” and “Millennium Actress.” He also directed “Paranoia Agent”, a television series that aired on Cartoon Network. I wasn’t too wowed with the ending and the explanation offered in “Paranoia Agent” plus I guessed who the killer was midway through “Perfect Blue.” But “Millennium Actress” and “Tokyo Godfathers” are among my personal favorites.
“Perfect Blue” is about Mima Kirigoe who decides to leave her J-pop idol image behind and become a serious actress. Along the way, she becomes the target of someone who does not approve of her new image. People around her start getting killed, a man stalks her and someone posing as “Mima” writes an online diary.
I thought this film was more or less a murder mystery set in the world of Japanese entertainment. I didn’t think it was that exceptional but I liked the way the characters actually look like real people and was intrigued with the whole idol-making process. I gave the mystery plot a B.
In “Tokyo Godfathers”, Kon tells the tale of three homeless people – Gin the drunk, Hana the former drag queen and Miyuki the teenage runaway – who find a baby in the trash during Christmas Eve. The film details their search to find the child’s parents and reveals the reasons why these unlikely godfathers became denizens of the streets. I think this is Kon’s most accessible work. The main characters are good, decent people despite their flaws and they really care for each other. The humor can be broad in some scenes. But the film also takes a jab at the way Japanese society views and treats the homeless.
But it is “Millennium Actress” that touched me the most. To me, it’s about the search for a long lost love and also a loving tribute to Japanese films. Other folks might see it differently.
In “Millennium Actress”, director Tachibana manages to land an interview with Chiyoko Fujiwara, a famous actress long retired from the business. He wants to do a documentary on her. She tells him her story and literally takes him along on her memories. I’m not kidding. We see Chiyoko in various stages of her career and Tachibana invariably pops up dressed appropriately for the period. We later find out why he is such an admirer of Chiyoko.
I enjoyed this film because I can relate to Chiyoko’s search for someone she loved and lost. Sometimes, the search takes on more importance than the object of one’s affections who becomes an idealized image. Such a trek can end in heartbreak. I know so.
Kon’s next film is called, “Paprika” which is based on a novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui. I haven’t read the book and have only seen stills of the movie which is supposed to be more surreal than Kon’s previous works. Anime News Network reported that “Paprika” will be shown in certain U.S. cities and will be released on DVD too. I can’t wait.
I consider Satoshi Kon an artist who uses animation as the medium to express his creativity.