Perfect Blue ★★★★★

“No one likes a pop idol with a tarnished reputation..” 

No joke, the killing scenes in this movie are some of the most brutal I’ve ever seen. It is astounding how, with animation, Perfect Blue presents violence, with frightening reality, better than most live-action films. I’m not going to be able to look at a screwdriver for a week. 

I admit to being befuddled for a significant portion of this movie. It certainly sets itself up as a movie in the vein of, say, Shutter Island, where reality and illusion twist into each other to the point where no one, neither us nor Mima, can tell what’s up. It’s very reminiscent of David Lynch or Darren Aronofsky. But the ending puts everything in perspective, and holy fuck, it all makes sense. When it clicked for me I literally gasped aloud. I, alone in my house, gasped. I can’t remember the last time a movie made me do that AFTER it ended. 

Shocking plot devices aside, I think something Perfect Blue does extremely well is present the enormous pressures of stardom and how the inherent contradictions within can quite literally tear someone apart. Being a pop idol for Mima means being pidgeonholed into a static role, one where she is adored but also infantilized and not “taken seriously.” Breaking out of that role, and becoming an actress, offers her the chance to become a fully-realized and mature star in her eyes. But in leaving the pop idol life, Mima finds herself snared again, this time into the seedy workings of the film industry. 

Making the jump to acting means putting herself out there, in ways that “tarnish” her image. Mima is not particularly happy doing these things, either, but she does them because doing such things are how you make it in this world, or so she is told. Mima feels herself splitting apart because she leaves behind her previous, manufactured life for another one that makes her just as miserable, if not more so. The virginal pop idol image, while incredibly limiting, shielded her a bit from the judgement and slut-shaming that accompanied her acting career. As an actress Mima is objectified and brutalized, all in service of a male-dominated entertainment industry that consumes young women. Mima has left a static, yet “safe,” position for one that has made her extremely vulnerable. The resulting crisis of identify then presents the perfect opportunity for the villain to swoop in and challenge Mima’s status as the “real” Mima.

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