Perfect Blue

Tried to see this in a theater but it was close to selling out and I didn’t want to sit in the front row for a movie I already own on DVD. But I’m tickled by the thought of that audience being mostly male, mirroring the obsessive men that exclusively populate Mima’s concert in Perfect Blue’s opening scene. What’s most telling about this crowd — quite literally embodying the male gaze — is that they do not come off as drooling perverts or rabid fanboys, but rather as armchair critics with too much time on their hands. A group of normal-looking dudes dissects her work with a pointed nonchalance; the vibe is closer to press junket than rock show. This idea permeates Satoshi Kon’s anime, that patriarchal culture, unwittingly or not, seeks to rob women of their agency while also profiting off of their bodies. It’s incredibly depressing to see Mima accept the role of a sexual assault victim in a bid for thespian respectability, yet cannot shop for groceries without being shadowed by some creep. It’s coming from all sides. (Look no further than how Ariana Grande is being treated in the wake of Mac Miller’s death.)

Last thing I’ll say is that I love how Kon is able to achieve such a light, playful tone in those strange little bookends while still reinforcing his aesthetics. Both in the abrupt opening that apparently disappoints its young fans who expected more from a big-screen Power Rangers-esque ripoff, and in Mima’s reclamation of self in the rearview mirror (“I’m the real thing”), he purges some of the film’s ugliness without sacrificing its formal and thematic identity. And how could anybody want a live-action adaptation? The medium of animation is what fundamentally undergirds the artifice, and it allows Kon to circumvent the hypocrisy of putting an actress through the same ringer he’s attempting to condemn (unlike noted Perfect Blue disciple, Darren Aronofsky).

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