Sunday, August 18, 2013

Perfect Blue

Do not let the pretty face fool you. This is not the anime you think it is. Perfect Blue owes far more to David Lynch than Disney.
The plot of Perfect Blue can best be summed up in one word: Mindfuck. It is a story in which the idea of being unsure what is real and what is fantasy is the story. The main character becomes entangled in the different worlds she inhabits: Her real life, her online life, her memories, her dreams, a character she plays on TV, someone else's imitation of her, who her fans think she is. And then people start dying...
Our heroine is Mima Kirigoe, who sings in Cham, a B-grade J-pop group. She does meticulously choreographed arm-waving and twirling in a pink tutu, crooning sugary tunes about love and angels to little girls and fixated fanboys, three of whom serve as a kind of Greek Chorus throughout the film.

Mima isn't satisfied with the low-grade, malls-and-fairs fame of her singing group. We open with her last show before she quits for a new and hopefully more glamorous and lucrative career as an actress. She's been offered a role on a sordid, sex-and-violence police procedural -- there is much debate about her pop idol image vs. actress image, how hard it is to become famous and stay famous.

She lives in a tiny, cluttered apartment, shops for groceries, feeds her fish, rides the train, lives a pretty ordinary life aside from the occasional fan letter... but then she begins getting odd hang-up calls, peculiar faxes, strange notes and then there's the website. Someone has set up an intensely detailed "fan site" for Mima, all in first person and accurate down to the brand of milk she buys. And then there's an accident with an exploding letter...
Things accelerate when Mima's role on the TV show is expanded -- via a graphic gang-rape scene. (This sequence is especially disturbing and disorienting.) Her pretty, pure, pink-clad pop idol self haunts her, taunting her in the window of a passing subway car, cursing her from a mirror's reflection, mocking her from "her" website about being a "filthy slut" with a "tarnished image."

Then the show's writer is murdered. Mima does a nude photo shoot. The photographer is butchered. And much as Mima doesn't know where she is, neither do we. A murder turns out to be a TV show episode that is actually a dream but is really a murder after all. The turn of the millennium brought a number of "what is real" movies, like Fight Club and Memento and Perfect Blue may be the most multi-layered example of the "tumble down the rabbit hole" genre.
 Darren Aronofsky was a fan of Perfect Blue and contemplated doing a remake ( I, uh, knew somebody who was in a position to know and let's leave it at that.), but i do not see how it could possibly be done live action. (Also, there are some movies that are done so right the first time, there's no point in a remake. I wish more filmmakers would realize that.) One doesn't have to pay a whole lot of attention to see the inspiration of Perfect Blue in Black Swan -- the idea of a young woman trying to move from mid-level fame to stardom by exploiting her sexuality and haunted by an alternate version of herself.

Perfect Blue is prescient on a number of counts: Stalkers, creepy fans, people tormenting others by pretending to be them on the internet, the never-ending amping-up of sex and violence for TV ratings, how teenybop starlets go "adult" via scandalous photo shoots and cameo roles. At least the bizarre fate of Mima Kirigoe isn't any any more twisted and self-destructive than Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan or Amanda Bynes....

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