Remembering Satoshi Kon: A Retrospective Overview (1963-2010)
Many of you might not know that we lost a dear friend in the world of anime two years ago. Satoshi Kon, an animator, film director, screenwriter, and manga artist, died of pancreatic cancer on August 24, 2010 at the age of 47. Kon created amazing works such as Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Perfect Blue, TV series Paranoia Agent, Memories short Magnetic Rose, and Paprika.
Starting with his most recent film, Paprika, is not unlike a strange, animated mash-up of The Cell and Inception. Paprika is more upbeat than most of Kon’s work, which tackle taboo topics and get downright twisted or depressing (but in a good way). This film is full of eye-candy, id-satiating fantasy action, omni-tentacle pokes, a Being John Malkovich moment, and has one of my favorite intros ever. The only criticism I could make about it is that Paprika has an unlikely romance that feels a tad thrown in, but is sweet regardless.
Millennium Actress tells the story of a retired film starlet’s rise to fame and a love lost and found along the way. It’s a moving, semi-historic period piece and, I’ll have to admit, I got a little bleary eyed at the end. Kon’s use of color to differentiate between scenes involving the real world and parts of a film is the same tactic implemented in Paprika for distinguishing between the real world and the dream world, it’s a wonderful way to set a mood.
Possibly the most intense (animated) psychological thriller around, Perfect Blue is centered on pop star Mima who quits singing to start a career as a serious actress. However, some of Mima’s more hard-core fans don’t appreciate her changing the way they see her (and they do see her whether she knows it or not). In the trailer there is a blurb saying that “Perfect Blue is like if Alfred Hitchcock and Walt Disney made a film,” which is absurd. Just because it’s animated the only director that Americans have as a frame of reference is Walt Disney? Much like The Net, Perfect Blue touches on the topic of identity theft and invasion of privacy via the internet during a time when the general American public was just starting to become web literate.
Tokyo Godfathers takes place on Christmas Eve when a rag-tag trio of homeless people stumble upon an abandoned baby. This dramatic comedy reminds me of the work of Jean-Pierre Jeunet who directed Amélie and Micmacs, what with all the running around helping people, weird coincidences, and serendipity. Kon’s inspiration from French films during this time is no secret either, with the cover art being a take on a French animated feature called The Triplets of Belville.
Spending his final months at home, Kon still managed to finish the script and storyboards for his last film, The Dreaming Machine. In fact, one of Kon’s major concerns was the fate of the film, with some debate whether it’s still in the works or on hold for financial or moral reasons. If there is a financial hold-up hopefully Madhouse gets the funds to finish the project, but perhaps they may think it is disrespectful to finish it without him. The official website is all in Japanese, but apparently the film was supposed to be a fairy tale with robots.
It’s truly a shame that we lost such a creative mind and that more films will not be produced by this great director and animator. If you get the chance, I suggest you rent one of his films tonight and watch it with a friend and, if you’re interested, Kon’s final blog entry is available (in English) on IMDB.