August 22, 2004

Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kon's anime feature Perfect Blue goes right to the top of the Hypertext Film Festival Hall of Fame (Memento, Sliding Doors, Mulholland Drive, Minority Report, Run Lola Run, Waking Life, Nashville).

Perfect Blue
Copyright Rex Entertainment Ltd

It's the story of a Japanese pop idol who is coaxed into becoming an actress. She gets bit parts and gratuitous sex scenes, which she hates. Her old girl group does better than ever. She buys a Macintosh and discovers a bunch of fan sites -- including sites that follow the singing career she abandoned, sites that seem to leak out of some alternate reality where she made different choices. And then, she starts getting visits from her alternate self, the pop idol.

All this is just the beginning: before we're done, we're going to run through just about every tool in the metafictional workbench.

There's a certain Peter Pan impulse at work here: I won't grow up! It's politically treacherous, especially in a medium that's so often concerned with schoolgirls' underwear. Don't let it worry you; the screenplay, by Sadayuki Murai, may be all over the place but it's definitely not naive. In fact, Murai goes out of his way to show you all your greatest fears -- deus ex machina, it-was-all-a-dream, we're so artistic it doesn't have to make sense -- in a sort of metafictional Hitcock.

Perfect Blue is very conscious of itself. It's got buckets of allusions. And it's stylistically fascinating; because Satoshi Kon uses an animation style in which nothing moves unless it has to, you're always very conscious of the artifice. (Kon also loves wild camera work, like long , long dolly shots that would be a pain to shoot on film. Of course, this is animation, so long takes aren't a problem for the actors. It seems odd in an animated feature, but it's fun in its own way.)