Psychological thrillers have a good reputation for being mind-bending, confusing, plot-twist filled journeys that leave viewers questioning what is going on up until the end or even beyond then.
Sometimes, however, psychological thrillers tend to have the same cliche twist where it’s all a dream, the father did everything, or the main character is just crazy.
Thankfully there’s plenty of old films that haven’t been riding modern trends that bring audiences in and boatloads of cash. One such film is an animated movie called “Perfect Blue,” directed by Satoshi Kon in 1997.
If you haven’t seen the film, make sure to rent or buy it before reading any further. The less you know, the better.
“Perfect Blue” is about a woman, Mima Kirigoe, who quits her job as a pop idol and goes on to be a full-time actress.
Her manager, Rumi Hidaka, helps her with this process and rebranding herself as an actress to shake off the stereotypes of being a model.
While doing so, an avid fan who turns into a devoted stalker creates a website to pretend that Mima is still a pop idol and the real Mima is a fake traitor.
As an actress, Mima starts out with little more than a single line of dialogue until Rumi helps push to get her more of a role in the TV series called “Double Bind.”
Once she gets more of a leading role, she is set up to be in a club scene where she is violently raped by several club members.
She is warned heavily by Rumi that her image will be tarnished if she goes through with it and she even has doubts about it, but she does it anyway.
The film begins to twist reality and cause viewers and Mima to question who the real Mima is and whether or not what happens around her is real.
Mima has hallucinations of her pop idol self taunting her, making fun of who she has become and saying that she’s nothing more than a slut who should have devoted herself to her fanbase.
Scenes jump from place to place with transitions that make time seem to pass by in a flash. Murders begin to occur with no real answer as to whether or not it was the stalker or Mima committing them.
Soon enough, even “Double Bind” begins to factor in the idea that Mima, as an actress and person, may have disassociative identity disorder.
Each transition from scene to scene makes it feel more and more like she might be losing herself as a person as viewers watch her struggle to make out what time it is, who she is, and why her old self torments her.
This film is truly horrific in the sense that it portrays the horrors that fame and its pursuit may cause to one’s identity and mental health.
Mima reached fame by working hard but had put her image and mental health at risk to be able to keep a job and reach further in her goal to be an actress.
Despite Mima’s fame and a reasonable amount of wealth, her struggles are portrayed in a way that does not appear vain or trivial.
There is a weight to her choices and the consequences she lives with as she regrets having gone through with the club scene, wondering if she should have been an idol now that her friends and fans look down upon her as an actress.
As an animated film, it holds up very well despite a few odd choices for character designs, voice acting, and even a few scenes. The transitions are excellent and Satoshi Kon knew exactly where and when to flaunt off how creative a transition could be.
The angles of shots rely heavily on perspectives and excel at intensifying dramatic moments or emphasizing important details, while also foreshadowing events without slapping the viewers in the face with them.
It is even possible to pick up on these tiny details over several rewatches, making it worth a second or even third view.
I truly do enjoy this film and can tell that many psychological thrillers after it are inspired by what “Perfect Blue” attempted to do.
It’s a perfect watch for those who don’t mind a few hiccups, especially if you want to be able to find some fun references in modern movies or a fresh, but old take on the thriller genre.
It is even considered somewhat of a classic since it is one of the most memorable animated psychological thrillers of its time.
Satoshi Kon had even gone on to create several other films that are just as wonderfully done, which I also highly recommend. Such as “Paprika” (2006) and “Tokyo Godfathers” (2003).
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