Genre: Thriller, Animation
Cast: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji
Synopsis: Mima is a super kawaii pop star who goes through a psychotic episode when she tries to become an actress. As fantasy and reality spiral out of control, a series of murders take place and Mima doesn’t know if she committed them or not.
This is one of the films which ignited my love for anime. I remember first watching Perfect Blue around a friend’s house when I was about 13 or 14 and being completely blown away by its trippy-ness and complex storyline. When people think of anime, they tend to associate it with cutesy little characters with giant eyes making weird mewing noises and fighting the forces of evil while wearing inappropriately slutty costumes. If you do that then watch Perfect Blue and prepare to have your mind blown and your stomach turned. This film is straight up Hitchcock on crack and is probably the most gripping and psychologically tense movie I have ever seen.
The film follows a former pop idol, Mima, who decides to change career and become an actress. She wins a role on a TV series which is essentially a rip off of Silence of the Lambs but with added rape scenes…..yeah, this movie is THAT fucked. Anyway, the pressure of the job and the horrible scenes she is made to act out force Mima to go all Amanda Bynes. Things become all the more complicated when a crazy stalker rears his head and when a series of murders appear implicate Mima. Throw in some trippy scenes involving a glowing internet Mima who skips around Tokyo in the rain and you’ve got yourself a total mind-fuck of a film. Satoshi Kon delivers yet another classic.
I have seen Perfect Blue at least 10 times and every time I see it the film takes on a different dimension and I notice something new. This time I watched the film with my doctor brother who informed me that the film accurately captures a visual representation of a psychotic episode. There is something terrifying in that fact. What’s more, the realism takes a very disturbing edge when coupled with the eerie soundtrack which sounds like a horrific mix between moaning and chanting. Indeed, there are parts of this movie that become very difficult to watch and it’s not just because there are graphic scenes of murder or simulated sexual violence. It’s partly because you are witnessing a woman’s psyche break in a chillingly real way and it becomes impossible to predict what will happen next. Virtually every scene is injected with a sense of foreboding which is heightened by the realisation that absolutely anything could happen because the movie is animated. It can go in any direction.
I will level with you. You will find it difficult to follow Perfect Blue the first time you watch it. The film is roughly 85 minutes long and most of the middle 65 minutes will probably go over your head. The reason for this is that Perfect Blue utilises the ‘film within a film’ device and it does so to great effect. It’s hard for me to give you the facts without spoiling the film but I can tell you that, as Mima’s mind begins to crack, the audience begins to lose track of what is real and what is not. Fantasy and reality begin to blur together in a confusing fashion and it perfectly captures Mima’s own psychosis. Because of that fact, the confusion never feels out of place or annoying. The audience can instead identify with Mima which is an impressive feat considering she’s animated. Whereas the confusion in Mulholland Drive was the result of the fact that movie was bat shit insane and stupid, the confusion in Perfect Blue has a meaning to it.
As a final point, I will say that the pay-off at the end of the movie is worth all the confusion. The movie has such a crazy-brilliant twist at the end and you will not see it coming. It will leave you with your mouth hanging open. I would love to give you more details but I don’t want to ruin the ending because it’s one of cinema’s greatest twists. It’s definitely up there with The Sixth Sense, Psycho, or Vertigo. Plus, the twist will clear up all the confusion. When that happens and when the penny drops, I advise you to watch the film again just so you can see how intricate and well-constructed it actually is.
- Perhaps the most Hitchcockian movie ever made that was not in fact made by Hitchcock.
- The twist ending. God damn it’s so good!
- There are two chase scenes in this movie which are absolutely mind-blowing. You will be at the edge of your seat throughout both of them.
- It’s the sort of film that gets better with repeat viewings. Also, watching other people watch it for the first time is a lot of fun.
- Confusing as hell (but the ending clears it all up and if you watch it a second time it becomes a lot easier to understand).
- The English dub can be sketchy in places but at the best moments it rivals the original Japanese version.
- Some very disturbing scenes.
This is without question one of my favourite films. If you love thrillers or brain-scratchers or surreal Hitchcockian films then this will be right up your street. I really can’t sing Perfect Blue’s praises enough and I hope I have managed to convey its strengths without giving too much away. On reflection, it was probably a bad idea for me to watch this a few days before I leave for Japan but I simply couldn’t resist. On that note, I will say that I leave for Japan tomorrow and probably won’t be able to post reviews in the next three weeks or so. Fear not, however, as I will return and when I do my reviews will be just as baked as ever.