Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist (2021)
Director: Pascal-Alex Vincent
A look at the life and work of Japanese animator Satoshi Kon. – IMDB
Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a documentary that takes a look back at Satoshi Kon’s film and TV work one by one and the influence and collaborators along the way and their impression of both his person, career and imagination. Telling the story of his beginnings and inspirations from Akira that lead him to creating manga in the start that were greatly influenced his art style to this later projects that charted a new direction for adult animation as he both directed and wrote stories that blended reality and imagination.
Made as a tenth year anniversary remembrance of Satoshi Kon’s passing in 2010, Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a great overview of his work and a fantastic homage to an animator that brought a different angle to Japanese animation with the stories that he told. Having only seen one film of Satoshi Kon, Paprika was my starting point which happened to be his last feature film released. However, the documentary does a great job at making sure that even those who aren’t thoroughly familiar with the filmography can still be able to be engaged as it talks about each project’s meaning to Kon and where his inspirations came but also how these films marked its place in Japanese animation, adding the intrigue to check out any missed filmography.
The documentary focuses on his career which starts off from his beginnings as a manga artist and gradually the opportunities that lead him to his first notable project, Perfect Blue which was anything from perfect when looking at the box office which incurred a loss and how the company wanted to prove others wrong and took another chance with him. Satoshi Kon’s films in discussion are rather multifaceted which on one hand discusses a societal issue, usually relevant to the Japanese population whether its idol group formations to films and actress to the underbelly population of Japan. At the same time, the main characters always held a part of himself as well while also revealing that Kon’s current projects sometimes even reflected ideas of his next project.
The execution of the documentary is pretty good. The layout of going from one project to the next and having different people involved being part of the interviews and sharing their experiences to tell their analysis or the actual progression of the projects shed a lot of light from behind the scenes. At the same time, the influence of Satoshi Kon was better emphasized as the interviewees expanded to people from the film industry outside of Japan including Darren Aronofsky who talks about how he asked Kon for permission to use one of his scenes in Requiem For A Dream and how director Rodney Rothman aspired to make Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse comparable to the experience of Kon’s films as two examples, moving to interviews from animators, voice actresses, producers, and others from USA, UK , Japan and France that crafts a good picture of Kon.
As the film ends with a quick look at what’s known about his unfinished final project, Dreaming Machine that didn’t end up being released, it further emphasizes the loss of a talent who was about to move away from his normal themes in his previous films and chart another path with his limitless imagination in family animation films. Plus, it has a final note from praise that other people in the industry interviewed throughout who either drew influence from his work or was able to work with or be acquainted with him during his career. Well-rounded, respectful and thorough: Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is a great journey through this acclaimed Japanese animator’s career.
*Satoshi Kon, The Illusionist is available on demand on Fantasia’s virtual platform throughout the festival running from August 5th to 25th, 2021. Check out more info here.*