Perfect Blue
Director: Satoshi Kon
Screenplay: Sadayuki Murai, from the novel by Yoshikazu Takeuchi
Voices: Ruby Marlow, Wendee Lee
NY Distribution Status: now playing (Manga)

Grade: C

Important disclaimer: I come to anime as a neophyte, not an aficionado; my experience of the genre to date is limited to Akira, Lensman, and possibly one or two others that I'm forgetting right now. What I've seen, I must confess, hasn't made me especially eager to see more, and that includes this tacky thriller-cum-philosophical-treatise, in which weighty ruminations about the nature of reality v. illusion ultimately amount to little more than a flimsy excuse to indulge in a bit of the old animated ultraviolence. Clearly, solipsism, whether individual and voluntary (eXistenZ) or collective and enforced (The Matrix, Dark City, arguably The Truman Show), is the hot-button fin de siècle theme. Perfect Blue, however, looks backward, lifting its primary conceit from Buñuel's great Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie; in the last two reels, the main character awakens from a dream (or does she?!) approximately every 4-5 minutes. After a while, the audience with which I saw the film started groaning at each new "twist," intuitively sensing that they were witnessing a series of facile "Gotcha!"s; the possibility that our simpering twit of a heroine is having some sort of psychotic breakdown is exploited rather than explored. And while the film is clearly intended for adults -- characters pose nude, curse like sailors, get stabbed repeatedly with awls, etc. -- the dialogue often sounds as if it were written by ten-year-olds suffering from Attention Deficit Disorder; this may be a translation and/or dubbing problem, I suppose, but I can only judge the movie I saw, and it's chockablock with hoot-worthy expository remarks. (Alone in her room, Twit Girl sees a fax emerging from her machine. "A fax!" she helpfully cries, aloud. "I wonder who it's from?") Bonus points for some impressively fluid action sequences; demerits for sticking with the book's title, which in this context is perfectly opaque.