Director: Satoshi Kon
It’s a dark time for the film industry. Recent revelations and allegations of sexual misconduct have cast a depressing fog over the art form that’s often eager to paint itself with an idealistic La La Land glow. In the midst of this comes a theatrical re-release of 1997’s cult-classic anime Perfect Blue – a psychological thriller with several prescient themes of misogyny, celebrity status and internet culture which cut deep into the dark side of show business.
Directed by acclaimed manga artist Satoshi Kon, Perfect Blue tells the story of a young pop-starlet named Mima. Once a member of the much-loved J-pop trio known as ‘CHAM’, Mima decides to leave her singing career behind her as she moves into an acting career. Initially taking a role in a pulpy TV crime thriller, Mima’s career takes a dark turn when she finds herself cast as in a challenging role as a victim of sexual abuse. As she also finds herself stalked by a crazed fan, Mima begins to lose her grip on reality with the lines between fact and fiction becoming increasingly blurred.
Originally released to a mixed critical reception to Western audiences, Perfect Blue has grown into a cult classic in the subsequent twenty odd years. Filmmakers like Terry Gilliam and Darren Aronofsky have cited the film as a source of inspiration, and its themes around the dangers of the burgeoning internet culture of the late 90’s remain surprisingly prophetic.
Outside of the film’s influence and continued relevance, Perfect Blue holds up as a gripping, disturbing and beautifully crafted work of anime. Satoshi Kon and screenwriter Sadayuki Murai keep the suspense building throughout the film’s brisk 81-minute runtime, with several stand-out sequences and a twisting narrative that leaves viewers frequently questioning what’s real and what’s not.
At times, the film also plays out like an animated Giallo movie, with one scene in particular evoking the beautifully orchestrated gore of Dario Argento’s finest set-pieces. Other moments have a dreamy quality not unlike the films of Christopher Nolan. From beginning to end, it’s easy to see the places where Perfect Blue’s influence has travelled and it still holds up as a tense and engaging psycho-thriller.
However, be aware that the film’s leering approach to sexual violence was shocking to many in 1997 and makes for doubly uncomfortable viewing with recent developments in the entertainment industry. Despite this, Perfect Blue remains a well-crafted thriller which still raises plenty of interesting questions around identity and celebrity culture.
Perfect Blue is released in selected cinemas from today, click HERE to book your tickets now!!!
Words by Stephen Leigh