Rated R. I had to dig deep for this one because IMDB told me that it was TV-14 and I couldn't buy that. There's so much sex, nudity, sexual assualt, violence, murder, and blood in it that there is no way that this movie should be on TV...ever. It's a hard R and it should always be considered a hard R.
DIRECTOR: Satoshi Kon
So this is one of my student's favorite movies. It might be his favorite movie. He's been talking about it all year and swears it is so good. He got half the class to watch this movie, so I decided that I, too, should watch this movie. Geez, what are these kids watching? It's so much. Look at that MPAA section! It's so much. I mean, I now own this movie, so yay for me, I guess? But this movie isn't for the faint of heart.
I will say this: While the sexuality is intense and I would probably scale it back a little bit, it is a commentary on the role of sexuality in the media. If you are making a movie about what people absorb versus the reality of the situation, I can possibly see putting graphic content in the movie. (Now, there's more to the theme than what I just said. I'll probably spend the majority of this blog writing about that stuff. But for the sake of simplicity, there's at least precedent for all of this vulgar stuff.) I actually kind of feel bad calling it vulgar. I mean, it is. It made me feel really uncomfortable because it's not my thing. But the movie is directly addressing labels and sex shaming as a concept. The reason that Mima is being tortured, first and foremost, is because she is shedding her virginal persona for a much more adult acting role. Coupled with that is the ignorance by Mima's audience that her virginal character was almost more sexually exploited than her R-rated TV character, despite the fact that her character is sexually assaulted on screen.
The movie is smart, but I kind of hate how shameless it gets at times. The second half of the movie is extraordinarily weird and clever. But the tone of the whole film seems a bit cheap at times. I'm not talking about a lack of quality in the animation. I think the animation holds up for the most part throughout the film. (Please note: I got swamped with work and then Spring Break happened. If there is a tonal shift and a lack of quality from this point on, I would like to apologize.) I'm going to be talking in broad examples. I have never really been an anime guy. I mean, I've watched a bit of anime, but rarely does it speak to me. If I can latch onto anything of note, it would probably be the work of Miyazaki. Miyazaki films look outstanding. Is it possible that Studio Ghibli has the resources to ensure that these movies look amazing? Probably. Do I tend to watch remastered stuff that Disney puts out? Yeah. But visually, the Miyazaki films just have this level of quality to them that something like Perfect Blue lacked. There's nothing fundamentally wrong with how Perfect Blue looks. But part of me feels like Perfect Blue would be a completely forgotten movie if it was filmed in live action. There are these shortcuts that are taken to keep the movie interesting. Considering how much work goes into making an animated feature, the film doesn't really let us breathe in the visuals. What effect this creates is a sense of "cool" versus a sense of beauty.
This is where the Last Night in Soho and Black Swan arguments are lost on me. Satoshi Kon is clearly an auteur. There are things about this movie that scream passion and art. But anime is something in Japan that we take for granted. Anime is a medium, not a genre, especially in Japan. So when a movie doesn't allow the film to be told the way it wants to be told, something is detracted. This is a short movie. I'm --in a rare change of heart --stating that this movie needs to be longer. What happens very quickly in the film is that it breathes in the horror elements instead of the psychological elements. This movie has a lot to unpack (which I should have done weeks ago when this movie was fresh) and instead, it plays up the horror elements. Listen, I like horror. Heck, I'll go as far as to say that I love horror. But the most interesting parts of this movie aren't necessarily the deformed stalker. It's the idea of finding oneself and determining what is art. Satoshi Don has a strong message here. There are these two toxic environments that Mima inhabits. She seems happy with both of them, which is fine because she sees the positive elements of each. But the world is defining what she should find vulgar and what she should find wholesome. But because the film plays up the horror elements of the story, we get a lot more exploitation in the second.
Satoshi Don highlights the perversion of the teen beat world when she's part of the singing group by showing the incels that lust after Mima. But the cop show is aggressively sexual. And it is in that sexuality, it loses me. If this film is a critique of the sexualization of women to the point of madness. But by constantly showing us Mima naked, isn't it simply advancing the culture that it is critiquing. Allow the story to rest. We don't need quick flashes. We are allowed to interpret things instead of having things screamed at us. The funny thing is, there are a lot of questions that go unanswered in the film. Yeah, we get a concrete answer to Mima's sense of duality. I'm glad that it wasn't the same answer as Black Swan, but it also feels a bit cheap considering how deep the movie tries to go.
I feel so bad because I don't watch a lot of anime. From an outsider's perspective, there is some pretty cool stuff going on here. I can see why my students are obsessed with this movie. (Okay, I hope it isn't because they're all gross and should have serious talks with someone.) In terms of odd storytelling, once the first twenty minutes are over, the movie does really get to a place of messing with your head. So much of the movie lives in this space of what is reality and what is fabricated. It also isn't afraid to get dark. I remember as a teenager that I became obsessed with The Silence of the Lambs. There's something dark and sinister that needs to be scratched in adolescence sometimes and Perfect Blue might simply be the film that this group of students saw. The funny thing is, this movie came out in 1997. It should have been that movie that I was obsessing over. But also --which is appropriately stressed in this now dated film --the Internet wasn't the Internet of today. The idea of seeing Perfect Blue without meeting the right crowd wasn't actually a thing. So maybe it is the darkness of a movie like this that gets students to get obsessed with it. It is a good and dark movie, but it isn't going to be the obsession that these other kids have. If anything, it's just a cool horror movie that could have been more.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.