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Perfect Blue

Satoshi Kan, 1997

Idols are rendered cultural property. Audiences take ownership over the digital personas they encounter; we’re told they’re ours to laud, dissect. This didacticism is not explicit. In fact, we are reminded to humanise these figures, especially towards those most presently charged with public condemnation. And yet, it is precisely the same body of individuals, the idol manufacturing industries at large, who vindicate these personas most ruthlessly; they whittle down their carbon copies into ghosts of the culture, they urge the simulation.

Mima attempts to retire from the culture. Once a member of a Japanese idol group, she turns to acting, the lesser toxic of the two. Her day-to-day of fantasy-girl costumes and repetitive touring is replaced by mundane, bottom of the ladder acting work. This, at least, offers Mima a sense of regularity, anonymity, order, all of which she has seldom experienced. Eventually, however, she lands a controversial role which assuredly tarnishes her public personality: performing a rape scene in a strip club. Betrayed by her novel career switch and its salacious turns, Mima’s most devoted fans stalk and threaten her; a website containing diary entries called ‘Mima’s Room’ impersonates Mima’s perspective and describes her life in exacting detail; a string of murders begin to closely encircle her.

Under threat, Mima’s former self is conjured, drifting into the film’s optics and taunting her self-abandonment. Fantasy-Mima sinks her teeth into the present while the actual Mima slips out of balance, unable to attest the extent of her reality; her once superficial autonomy, enamouring an audience of fans, is rendered feckless, untranslatable.

Satoshi Kan turns to pioneers of the hallucinating victim, Polanski’s Repulsion, Buñuel’s Belle de Jour, while influencing its own successors: of course, Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Kan’s influence on Aronofsky is blatant; Nina’s battle with perfection is choreographed in tandem with Kan’s own schizophrenic vision of metamorphosis. This is reflected in Kan's creation of a psychological topography, indulging in an art style that is both Hitchcockian and surrealist. Mima’s consciousness is therein fastened to a frightening, perplexing centre; unable to hold, continually in flux.

Unable to curb the paranoia, and traumatised by the absence of certainty, she is a symbol of her own derivation; her existence a dance for the perception of others — from palm to palm, incessantly recirculated.


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