Perfect Blue (Pafekuto Buru) – Review

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Dubbed in English and featuring the voice talents of: Ruby Marlowe, Wendee Lee, Gil Starberry, Bob Marx, Steve Bulen
Based on the Manga of the same name by: Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Written for the screen by: Sadayuki Murai
Screenplay translated in English by: Lia Sargent
Directed by: Satoshi Kon
IMDb Score: 7.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%

Wow, it’s all aboard the Anime train suddenly for me (and no, it’s not the last one either).

What makes Japanese Anime special from most animated films is that a lot of them are effectively dramas and character pieces, much like what American Indie films are like. Some of the very best anime can also, conceivably, be effective live-action dramas.

Films like Grave of the Fireflies, The Garden of Words, Millennium Actress, et al could have easily been filmed as live action, but somehow they use animation to give the film a style and feel all it’s own.

When going through all sorts of lists that “Anime movies anyone should watch” lists, Perfect Blue comes up in a lot of lists. As does a lot of the movies that are created by it’s director: Satoshi Kon.

So, after years of saying “I’ll get to it,” I got to it. So how is it?

Mima (Marlowe) is a pop-idol who leaves the idol business and decides to become an actress. As that is happening, her psyche goes in different directions when a psychotic fan begins to stalk and harass her.

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Note: Review is on the English Dub

Note: Perfect Blue is an extremely hard movie to find and I was incredibly lucky to be able to rent the DVD on Netflix. That said, the DVD I watched is old (2000) and as such, the movie will not look too great when watching. In fact, the film is only watchable on it’s 4:3 Aspect Ratio, so everyone will notice that there are black bars surrounding the entire picture.

My hope is that they re-release this film at some point with a new remaster on Blu-Ray and give the movie a full color restoration. Otherwise, when you look for this film and looking at the price ($90 for this DVD?!), you’re getting a rare movie that doesn’t look very good.

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Going in, Perfect Blue was billed to me as a psychological thriller: one that’s much more psychological and may require multiple watches to truly get what’s happening in the film.

After one sitting, and not really seeing how this movie is confusing (it’s non-linear, for sure), Perfect Blue is a solid drama that, for it’s run time, is well worth a watch. It’s psychological mind play doesn’t exactly make the film a “rewarding” watch, much like David Lynch and David Cronenberg, but it’s not a detraction from what is a good watch.

Mima, the main character, is an altogether likable character to watch throughout. Though subservient and shy, the character is a solidly created one, which makes going through the movie engaging enough to want to sit through.

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A fear that I had in the beginning was watching a character that is dumb, ditzy and annoying to deal with be the center of the film. Originally, she felt that way, but the story does a great job in making her deeper than those archetypes would allow.

Perfect Blue is not that deep of a film, however. The film directs the entirety of the plot to it’s main character and that is it. No one else is given as much depth or as much screen time as Mima, which makes the other details in the film seem superfluous at best.

Of course, psychological dramas such as this live in the details, but that’s where the main problem with the film lies. Most psychological films play with details and with events to give the viewer a sense of discomfort and confusion that is supposed to envelope the viewer into the story.

Perfect Blue doesn’t do that at all. Yes, there are scenes that are confusing. Yes, there are some that are visually arresting. There are some that are shocking as well. But none of these scenes, including a staged rape scene and a bloody killing, seem to add to the “details”.

And if you watch films like Mulholland Drive and eXistenZ, there’s subtext and deeper meaning amongst those details. Shocking scenes, explicit sex scenes, glorified violence, sadomasicistic scenes: these movies use those types of imagery to overlay a different message.

There really is no message in Perfect Blue that can’t be figured out well before the weird stuff starts to happen. In fact, when looking back on the film, the ending sort of doesn’t make much sense, except in a pseudo-intellectual sense.

No spoilers for this 20 year old film, of course, but the eventual ending just doesn’t seem like a plausible/satisfying ending. Is asking for a plausible ending unfair for a film that dips itself in a sea of insanity? Maybe, but it doesn’t help that the ending seems really unsatisfying. This is due to it’s convenience for a twist ending, which honestly wasn’t much of a twist in the first place.

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Perfect Blue is a good movie, but it could have been a lot better if the psychological aspects were better fleshed out. The main character is good and likable; the story is entertaining. The rest of the film just seem like a missed opportunity.

Or, maybe after films like Fight ClubThe Black Swan, etc. have released in the time that this was made, it just doesn’t hold up.

3/5 – A good story with a good main character. The psychological stuff, however, is more burdensome than helping the narrative. 

The Wiz Says #47

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