hhhh, the vagaries of stardom. Plenty of money,
private jets, fast cars, an entourage of "Yes" men doing your
bidding, and millions of screaming fans. However, fans sometimes become a
star's worst enemy. We've all seen news reports of obsessed fans stalking
and sometimes harming the celebrities they're fixated upon. This obsession
sometimes spins out of control and we get such tragedies as John Lennon's
murder in Central Park. This scenario has been adapted for the screen
several times, in such like, "The Fan" and "Play Misty For
Me." In 2002, fledgling director Satoshi Kon took his own proverbial
stab at the subject with the animated "Perfect Blue."
Mima Kirigoe is a member of an
overproduced J-Pop girl band named CHAM (think a combination of Atomic
Kitten, Spice Girls and Dream). Rapidly becoming unsatisfied with the
limitations of her career as a teenybopper, Mima pulls a Menudo and
'graduates' out of the group in order to pursue an acting career. Much like
how Cosby kid Lisa Bonet attempted to grow out of her Cosby persona with a
super sultry role in "Angel Heart," Mima is eager to shed her
squeaky clean girl band image and, much to the dismay of her management,
promptly accepts a role in a sleazy TV serial killer drama.
Before long, Mima is posing nude for a racy photo
shoot and agreeing to perform a brutal gang rape scene for the TV show.
While these salacious endeavors garner her tremendous popularity, many of
her core CHAM fans disapprove, and soon Mima is receiving death threats.
She also comes across an Internet stalker's website that has disturbing
but accurate descriptions of her day-to-day activities. Things get much
more dangerous when Mima's manager receives a mail bomb and the TV
show's scriptwriter is found stabbed to death.
"Perfect Blue" utilizes a multiple layered
reality structure that has been used most notably in Chris Nolan's "Memento"
and Alejandro Amenábar's "Abre
Los Ojos." Kon deftly splices together the movie within a movie
conceit with a nightmare within a dream within reality, all in an attempt
to visualize Mima's rapidly deteriorating mental health as her situation
worsens. Is a deranged lunatic stalking Mima or is she just imagining it?
Is she awake, or is this all just a bad dream?
While at first disorienting and at times frustrating,
things eventually start to fall into place. With the situations and
violence becoming increasingly unpleasant, Kon reels everything in with a
breathtaking inside-out concluding sequence. It's a credit to Kon's skill
that the viewer is almost able to piece together what's real and what
isn't before the film's big reveal. Almost. The brilliance of the closing
image is that it leaves open to interpretation just who's point of view
the story is being told from, and whether what we are seeing is in
fact reality or still someone's dream.
While constructed as a hyper-stylish slasher flick in
the Dario Argento mold, "Blue" has some surprising thematic
depth. It can be interpreted as a theatrical, if somewhat clinical,
examination of the prison that is stardom. Just look at the careers of
most of the cast members of 'Beverly Hills 90210' and 'Saved By the Bell',
or members of early '90s boy band New Kids On The Block. These kids get
pigeonholed as a certain type of character based on their previous 'life'
and are typically not accepted in other roles. Thus, they are forced to do
something extreme to get noticed again (i.e. Elizabeth Berkley in
"Perfect Blue" also touches on what I find
to be a rather disturbing preoccupation in Japan. That is, the depiction
of exploitation/rape of women (particularly underage girls) in seedier
forms of entertainment such as Hentai (tentacle porn, for the
uninitiated), the 'Pink' film genre, and even standard porn. I have my own
ideas as to the origins of this cultural nugget, but that's the subject of
a separate discussion.
Besides the unusually well thought out script,
"Perfect Blue" also differs from the average anime in look. The
drawing is much cleaner and the characters look like real people rather
than cartoons. The character design and style of animation is more akin to
than to traditional anime. This isn't too surprising, as Kon cut his teeth
doing background artwork and animation for "Akira." In fact,
"Blue" was originally slated to be a live-action production, but
was recast as an animated feature after some financial problems during
development. Ironically, a live-action version was eventually made in
"Perfect Blue" manages to keep the viewer
hooked with its fancy footwork by successfully pulling off what could have
easily turned into an aimless exercise in exploitation and orgiastic
violence. Visually inventive, thematically dark, gruesomely violent and
narratively intricate, "Perfect Blue" is, without a doubt, a
satisfying piece of entertainment.