Combustible Celluloid
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With: Junko Iwao, Rica Matsumoto, Shinpachi Tsuji, Masaaki Ōkura, Yōsuke Akimoto, Yoku Shioya, Hideyuki Hori, Emi Shinohara, Masashi Ebara, Kiyoyuki Yanada, Tōru Furusawa, Emiko Furukawa, Shiho Niiyama, Akio Suyama (voices)
Written by: Sadayuki Murai, based on a novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Directed by: Satoshi Kon
MPAA Rating: R for animated sequences of violence and nudity, and for brief language
Language: Japanese, with English subtitles
Running Time: 81
Date: 08/20/1999

Perfect Blue (1997)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Guess Who

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After directing an episode of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, the great anime filmmaker Satoshi Kon made his feature directing debut with the cult favorite Perfect Blue (1997). It received an American theatrical release in 1999, dubbed, prompting a negative review from my friend Rob Blackwelder: "the dubbed English dialogue... is so devoid of soul and panache that it reads like it was translated by a computer program." The subtitled version is much better. Pop star Mima decides to quit her girl group Cham! to become an actress. She gets a job on what looks to be a low-rent, direct-to-video soap opera, debuting with a single line, "excuse me... who are you?" Her fans are non-plussed, and she begins to receive mean messages and even warnings. One fan in particular, known as "Me-Mania," has started a website featuring an eerily accurate diary of Mima's activities. Before long, Mima's reality and nightmares begin to blur, complicated by a rape scene she performs for the TV show. She also begins to see the pop-star version of herself, who taunts her with the "who are you?" line. Compared to most post-apocalyptic or sci-fi oriented anime, this was certainly an ambitious attempt at something new, and it holds up well, with Kon's rich, nuanced animation still looking great. Sadly, Kon completed only three more features before passing away in 2010 at age 46, and each one was better than the one before. We'll never know what more he might have been capable of.

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