I DARE you to find a sweeter film treat this Halloween than experiencing cult-anime Perfect Blue on the big-screen.
Perfect Blue – back in cinemas on October 31 for its 20th anniversary – is an unforgettable psycho-thriller which showcases the filmmaking of Satoshi Kon. If you do not recognise the name, then you should. He gives a masterclass in pulse-raising and innovative-thinking cinema.
Two decades on, Kon’s film is as relevant and potent than ever before.
Perfect Blue tells the story of Mima Kirigoe (Junko Iwao), a young woman who leaves her position in beloved pop trio CHAM! to pursue an acting career.
This decision sets off a chain of events – including a defamatory internet blog claiming to be written by her – that sees Mima rapidly lose her grip on reality. Bloody murders and a creepy stalker only complicate matters as Perfect Blue builds to a riveting and mind-bending conclusion.
Kon, who tragically passed away from cancer at the tender age of 46, left an indelible imprint on the film industry. His 2006 classic, Paprika, set a marker for Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster smash-hit Inception (2010). Darren Aronofsky’s admiration for Kon and Perfect Blue can be seen in scenes he directly mirrors in both Requiem for a Dream (2000) and Black Swan (2010).
Although Aronofsky has claimed otherwise, Black Swan is undoubtedly inspired by Perfect Blue’s haunting portrayal of inner-female turmoil.
Most visibly, both films share scenes where the female protagonists are terrified by rouge reflections, providing windows into their tormented and paranoid minds. This probing at identity – how we see ourselves and how we are seen by others – is a key theme of both Black Swan and Perfect Blue.
Much of Mima’s turmoil relates to her growing profile as a celebrity and internet interest in her. Mima finds her private life under threat from a blog – titled Mima’s Room – which comments on her every move and fabricates her thoughts and opinions. Mimi is rightfully mortified, making comments like: ‘This is not true, I’m not writing this’ and: ‘How do they know so much?’
In today’s terms, Mima is a victim of catfishing and fake news. A celebrity culture, lifted into further focus by the internet, that pushes the boundaries of privacy and pedals gossip. As the title of the blog suggests, it invades every aspect of her life, leaving nothing sacred – even her bedroom.
Of course, Mima’s fans soak up the internet blog with little questioning. As does a more ominous male figure who seemingly follows Mima everywhere with his wonky, gawping face and camcorder in hand.
His own room, filled with posters of Mima, speaks to a level of fandom and worship of celebrities that has become all too common twenty years on. The internet – and the anonymity that comes with it – only acts to incubate such unhealthy fixations.
Mima is also a victim of creepy television writers and greedy agents – a sentiment all too pertinent in a post-Weinstein age. Their decision to transition Mima away from singing disregards her wishes and is based predominately on the fattening of their pockets. Mima is merely an easily exploitation vessel for their own benefit.
Part of this sees Mima thrust into a rape storyline and encouraged to do a naked photo-shoot. The consequences of both are brushed off by her agents, yet the negative impact on her mental state and reputation soon reveals itself.
Mima – as well as others around her (pure intentioned and not) – becomes concerned that her reputation is being tarnished. There are allusions to ‘slut shaming’ (another theme explored in Black Swan), which results in a torturing internalised guilt for Mima.
Later, this tussling with her public sexualisation manifests in a reflection of her past self in the train window. ‘I absolutely refuse to do it [the rape scene]’, says this innocent CHAM! reflection of a past Mima.
Perfect Blue is stand-out work from Kon whose catalogue of films is worth delving into. We have yet to even touch on Masahiro Ikumi’s shudderingly eerie score or Harutoshi Ogata’s maze-like editing, which cleverly muddies the waters even further.
This is a film that will keep you guessing until the very end. Having seen Kon’s brilliant ending, you will want to see Perfect Blue again to try and identify the clues littered through the film.
What a treat for this Halloween. Perfect Blue. A near perfect film.