FANTASIA FEST 2021 REVIEW! The greatest filmmaker of all time was anime maestro Satoshi Kon. I say this as both a subjective declaration, as I love all of the man’s work, and as a more objective statement on the sheer impressive, if short, résumé Kon built up during his lifetime. Perfect Blue, his feature debut, is a chilling and absorbing thriller that is still as topical and engaging now as it was when it was released. His second film, Millennium Actress, is the most sublimely edited movie I’ve ever beheld, and each frame a stunning work of art. Tokyo Godfathers is so charming and sweet that it might give one a toothache. Paprika was Satoshi Kon’s final film, and it heavily influenced Inception; need I say anymore?
Seriously, does any other director have a track record that is not just one hit after another but so grandiose in themes and yet still so playful and enticing? Kubrick, maybe? And I’ve got no other names coming to me right now. Plus, bear in mind that those are just the man’s films and don’t get into his many manga, shorts, writings, or shows. Writer-director Pascal-Alex Vincent takes a deep dive into Kon’s life, works, and lasting legacy with Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist.
The filmmaker uses plenty of archive footage, interviews, statements, and photographs of the man at work, during film premieres, and the like. So, despite Satoshi Kon tragically passing away over a decade ago, he is still a presence throughout the documentary. Vincent also lines up an impressive gallery of colleagues, artists, and filmmakers to discuss his legacy at length. Those interviewed include visionary live-action directors like Darren Aronofsky and Marc Caro, producer Masao Maruyama, and voice actor Megumi Hayashibara to give a very tiny sampling of the talent and scope involved with this clear labor of love.
“…a deep dive into Kon’s life, works, and lasting legacy…”
Vincent retraces every relevant detail about Kon’s life and his art down to the finest detail. While that might sound boring, thanks to the candid stories shared and the style implemented, the film moves at an incredible pace, making one feel like they are experiencing one of Kon’s titles. The director accomplishes this through stellar cinematography, which captures the various cities beautifully and expert editing. I don’t say the following sentence lightly: Editor Clément Selitzki uses the same free-flowing feel and lightness of touch that permeate every second of Kon’s films to make Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist come to life in a beautiful, thoughtful way that does justice to the man, his work and legacy.
While I can’t say this with the utmost certainty, the film does such an exhaustive examination of each major project of his that even non-fans will be able to understand each title’s themes, overall plot, and place in both Kon’s and cinema’s history. It is nothing short of exhilarating and breathtaking. If one is already a fan, be prepared to shed some tears, especially near the end.
Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist is a brilliant, loving look at one of the most outstanding filmmakers to have ever lived. Pascal-Alex Vincent does Kon justice in terms of both the depths he plumbs and the emotions he brings forth. Kon would also be proud knowing that his work inspired not only other animators but filmmakers of all kinds. Finally, he’d also be honored knowing that his style and reach remain ever-present, even if audiences are not always aware of it.
Satoshi Kon: The Illusionist screened at the 2021 Fantasia Film Festival.
"…nothing short of exhilarating and breathtaking."