Satoshi Kon's PERFECT BLUE
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
Why is this psychological terror/murder mystery/serial killer story a cartoon? What special or extra dimension does animation add to this story that justifies the extensive talent and labor that have been lavished on making the characters and story seem as real as a theatrical or made for TV movie?
These are some of the questions that went through my head as I watched this Japanese story. Don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed and was entertained. But I found myself wondering, what is it that makes animation appropriate for this type of story? Is the fact that we care about these characters and are as stressed out by their predicaments as we would be were they live action?
The story has modern stalker/killer/murder mystery/pop star elements. Characters are well designed and voiced. Character development and rendering ranges from gritty to sensitive. And unlike many examples of anime, there are many crowd scenes where characters move independently.
But I kept asking myself, would I watch this movie were it not a Japanese cartoon? Probably not. The artwork and character design are well done, but not grandiose like Princess Mononoke, nor strikingly artistic like Lain, nor as evocatively melodramatic like the same director’s Millennium Actress. The movie simply asks us to accept the story for what it is and not to make allowances because it is animated. I respect that. But I think I prefer something more imaginative or creative when I see animation. I want to see something I can’t see in a live action movie. PerfectBlue asks us to accept an animated film on the same terms as a live action movie. It succeeds technically by duplicating live action elements but in the process ignores the special impact on imagination and emotion that animation can have.
The extras on this DVD are somewhat interesting and include interviews with some of the Japanese and English language actors. Also included is an interview (dubbed) with the director. Unfortunately, the interviewer asks a series of trite questions and does not really explore any unique issues with the participants. That’s sort of my reaction to the movie — nothing special, despite the major effort that has gone into the animation. Which is sad, given the amount of work we know is involved in creating this type of film.