A pop star goes Gaga when she makes like an Ice Cube and freezes her music career to grab her Cher of acting life and become the next Will Smith, only to feel the face-slapping Sting of cold Ice-T poured on her dreams, Harry Style(s).
This 1997 anime puts the Mad in Madonna, as the J-pop idol Mima (Junko Iwao) loses her grip on reality, after a series of brutal murders leave her questioning her sanity and identity. It sits at the perfect centre of the Venn diagram between animated films that are definitely not for children (Fritz the Cat, Watership Down) and psychological thrillers about celebrity (Black Swan, Misery). The admittedly thin plot works best as a metaphor for a star’s loss of control over their image, and is startlingly prescient concerning the role of the internet in an impending K-pop explosion. Even the name Perfect Blue predicts the career path of Lee Ryan.
The late Satoshi Kon directs with the same jolting mystery he brought to the series Paranoia Agent, blurring the line between fiction and reality as Mima’s TV show literally bleeds into her real life. His shadowy animation and clever use of colour make for a visually nourishing noir, almost an animated version of the psychosexual thrillers of Brian De Palma or Dario Argento. Homage to that genre creates an unnecessary fixation on Mima’s naked body when she is attacked, but the film also seems critical of Japanese society’s sexual infantilisation of women, and Kon matches the psychotic style with psychological substance.
Perfect Blue‘s 80 minutes fly by in a blur of blood, nudity and sharp objects (screwdrivers, umbrellas, MiniDiscs… it can’t all be prophetic). The result is a scintillating slasher flick, a haunting exploration of celebrity and misogyny, and a visionary critique of the kind of fans who flood the internet with imagined romantic relationships between real people. Pair it with Belle for a cyber-pop double-bill.