Perfect Blue is a film known by everyone but me; this 20th anniversary showing is the first time I have ever watched it. For those who are familiar with the film, you are probably smiling reading that, and for those who aren’t there is nothing you can do to prepare yourself for Satoshi Kon’s directorial debut. Fathom Events decided to air this remastered 20th Anniversary edition of Perfect Blue across the nation for a select few days this week, so I immediately jumped at the opportunity to see this on the big screen. How could I not when all my film friends raved about it, even going to such lengths as to call it a masterpiece?
Nothing can prepare you for your first time watching this film, and I mean it. One week ago I watched the newly released Searching and thought it couldn’t be topped this year when it came to thrillers, but then Perfect Blue comes along. Perfect Blue is a psychological thriller set in the 1990s of Japan; we follow a pop star who decides to quit singing and pursue a career in acting. Not everyone is happy about her choice, and as she delves deeper into the world of acting she starts to have psychological episodes. As the film progresses, reality and illusions start to blur until we have no idea what is real and what is false. Kon leaves clues in the films, but you are best not relying on them because those clues could be red herrings.
Even though it is a thriller, Kon laces the film with social commentary and foreshadowing towards the future of Japan. Kon uses central character and star of the film Mima Kirigoe as an example of how celebrities are just like us. The problems that arise for Mima come from living up to expectations of everyone around her, and not being taken seriously due to her age and her previous role as a pop idol. This is where Kon’s commentary comes in; Perfect Blue is a work of fiction, but the material and themes it represents were not only real in the 90s but are still a mainline problem today. Mental illness, high expectations, and misconceived realities come with the territory of fame, but no one ever addresses it until someone famous dies from the pressure.
There is a scene that stuck with me involving Mima’s first-time use of a computer. She discovers a fan site and becomes amused by it until it starts to go too far, painting her into an image that isn’t real. The scene hits hard because not only does it foreshadow the rise of the internet and its impact, but also how one person can create something to ruin someone’s image.
The film is accompanied by a musical soundtrack and top-notch voice acting that only makes me think of other animated masterpieces such as Akira and Ghost in the Shell. Ninety minutes is all Perfect Blue needs to pull the audience into a twisted nightmare that doesn’t let up till the last five minutes. When you wake up, you are forced to ask yourself, “What did all that mean?”
Satoshi Kon was a talented director who created a masterpiece with his directorial debut. It takes considerable care and talent to create a film whose central themes remain relevant twenty years after its creation. I look forward to watching the rest of this late director’s work.