• Jamie Morris

One to Watch: Perfect Blue (1997)

Satoshi Kon’s visceral depiction of the terrors of fame and the internet remains just as powerful as his debut feature turns 25 this year…

Before his untimely death in 2010, director Satoshi Kon completed four animated features, all of which are regarded to be among the greatest anime films of all time, and went on to influence the likes of Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan. Kon’s directorial debut, Perfect Blue, is widely considered to be his greatest work, and emblematic of the themes he would explore across his short-lived albeit groundbreaking career as a filmmaker.

In Perfect Blue, a pop idol named Mima quits singing to pursue a career in acting, where she is pressured into filming a rape scene for a violent TV drama and later taking part in a nude photo shoot. Angered by Mima’s startling change in image, an obsessive fan of her music sets up a web page titled “Mima’s Room” where they write diary entries on her behalf, claiming that the “new” Mima is in fact an impostor. After a series of anonymous threats and violent incidents, Mima begins to doubt her own sanity and the lines between dreams, fiction and reality are blurred to disorienting effect.

Perfect Blue is a slow burn, yet it never loosens the suffocatingly tight grip it has on the viewer

The film explores a multitude of challenging themes, including the trauma faced by young women in the entertainment industry and, more broadly, the dissonance between the various personas we create for ourselves – especially in an increasingly digital world. Released at a time when the internet was still largely a novel phenomenon, the film is certainly a product of its time, but its unsettling messages ring true today all the same.

Perfect Blue is a slow burn, yet it never loosens the suffocatingly tight grip it has on the viewer due to its omnipresent harbingers of impending violence, from the striking red colour palette to Mashiro Ikumi’s nerve-wracking score. Sublimely written, animated and edited, Satoshi Kon’s debut is a tour de force of psychological horror that works its way deep under the skin.