Sennen Joyuu is a 2002 Madhouse film written and directed by Kon Satoshi. Yes, the same man who also wrote and directed both Perfect Blue and Tokyo Godfathers. He’s also done some rubbish, but I haven’t reviewed that so we’ll pretend we don’t know about it. To close out this year’s film festival week, let’s take a look at Sennen Joyuu.
We open with a dude, Tachibana Genya, watching old films when he’s startled out of his seat by an earthquake. We see that Ginei Studio is having their buildings demolished and Tachibana has decided it’s an opportune time to interview Ginei’s greatest former star, Fujiwara Chiyoko. They find her living in veritable isolation in a nice manor house and she tells them about her life growing up during the second World War & how she got into making films. Turns out, it all ties into an old key she used to carry around.
The only real criticism I have is that the ending feels a bit rushed and there’s a certain element of it that comes across as contrived for the sake of extra drama.
The film is very clever with its story telling, using a mix of Chiyoko’s films and actual scenes from the past to tell her story while also strongly hinting at later developments using those scenes from her films. The thematic content of the film is well executed. With such universal concepts as aging, obsession and the male gaze all being examined.
The cast is not made up of characters who are particularly likeable. The main characters in this are both overly obsessive and unwilling to let themselves be defined by anything but very specific formative events. Which can be a little grating. That being said, they are complex, interesting characters. And they do have positive facets to them. Those aspects are just overshadowed by the way they hold on to their unrequited loves.
There are also a few side characters who feel superfluous. Like Chiyoko’s maid who gets one or two lines, is in the background for a while and then fucks off to search for the tiniest shred of plot relevance. It’s especially noticeable in her case, because every piece of minor information she gives other characters gets repeated by Chiyoko afterwards.
The film looks a lot like Kon’s other works. Nicely detailed backgrounds, well designed characters. What sets this one apart from the other films of his I’ve reviewed are the transitions between film and reality, flashback and present. Which are very well handled. About the only negative I can bring up is that, occasionally, there are some awkward expressions. Doesn’t happen often, but it is noticeable. Overall, great looking film.
The acting is well done. Iizuka Shouzou Orikasa Fumiko, Koyama Mami, Onosaka Masaya and the more minor characters all perform their roles well. Hirasawa Susumu did a great job with the soundtrack.
There is none whatsoever.
Areas of Improvement:
- A less contrived ending.
- A little more attention to detail in the expressions.
- At least let the maid do anything to give her some kind of reason for being there. As is, you could remove her from the film completely and it wouldn’t matter.
This is a really well made film with a lot of interesting elements and interesting characters. I’m going to give it an enthusiastic 9/10.