The film Perfect Blue is very confusing
January 19, 2004 6:05 PM   Subscribe

The film Perfect Blue is very confusing. (more inside, with major spoilers)

Last night I watched Perfect Blue with a friend of mine. I really liked it, and I'm definitely going to watch it again in the near future, but I'm not entirely convinced that the film made even a lick of sense. At the very least, it must be like Mulholland Dr., which makes perfect sense as long as you figure out that the movie has its own rigid internal logic that has nothing to do with the way the real world works. And Google turns up nothing for me in the area of interpretation. So--

--Okay, so there's an imaginary version of Mima, right? And it's a "good," uncorrupted young woman, who still sings family-friendly pop music while the real Mima shoots rape scenes in TV shows. (By the way, that one scene freaked my friend out so much that I had to fast forward through it, and she can usually watch just about anything. However, I don't think I missed a major narrative plot point by not being able to hear the sound during that scene, or see it at its normal speed.) And at the end of the film it looks like Rumi is somehow the real-life incarnation of this imaginary Mima. But is Rumi always the imaginary Mima? Or is the imaginary Mima just a product of the real Mima's imagination, except at the end? Or are we just not supposed to ask?

--Did the real Mima kill the photographer that shot the nude images of her? Or was that just a dream? Or are we just not supposed to ask?

--Remember Mr. Me-Mania, the super-creepy guy that runs the website? There's one scene where the imaginary Mima starts appearing and talking to him. Is that him imagining the imaginary Mima? Or has the imaginary Mima generated by Mima's mind suddenly taken on a life of its own? Or is that really Rumi? Or are we just not supposed to ask?

--If two of the murders (the photographer and the screenwriter) have the same modus operandi, are we wrong to assume that Mr. Me-Mania kills the screenwriter (which is what it looks like)? Or do we just let that question slide, too?

I listened to the interviews with the voice actors on the DVD, but the only thing I got from them is that they don't know what the hell's going on either--they just showed up and read their lines. I'm willing to buy it as a piece of surrealist cinema that's deliberately supposed to have a fractured, illogical narrative, but I'd like to think that it's more logical than that.
posted by Prospero to Media & Arts (10 answers total)
I watched this in my Japanese Feminism class last year; I wish I remembered more of it.

As far as I can tell, the imaginary Mima is a product of the real Mima's own guilt/fractured psyche/anxiety about the darker turn her career has taken--a figment of her own imagination, but Rumi is also living out her own delusions through the imaginary Mima, especially at the end.

I think that in the scene with Mr. Me-Mania, that's him imagining the imaginary Mima (but he's also being affected by the messages that Rumi sent him?)

It makes more sense on a second viewing. I think the narrative is intentionally fractured and illogical--but not without an underlying story that it's possible to make sense of.
posted by Jeanne at 6:28 PM on January 19, 2004

It was confusing, and the rape scene really disturbed me too. Yish.

I saw it with a bunch of friends, and we came up with some theories afterward:

- The movie takes turns looking through three different delusional points of view, all involving the good-girl pop singer version of Mima.
- Rumi, as imaginary-Mima, writes the messages to Mr. Me-Mania that end up on the "Mima's Room" site.
- Mr. Me-Mania, obsessed with Mima, imagines that she talks to him personally (showing up in his room, talking through his posters, etc).
- At Rumi's direction, Mr. Me-Mania kills the scriptwriter and Mima's agent.
- Rumi kills the photographer. It was imaginary-Mima who went shopping in Harajuku and bought the clothes real-Mima later finds in her closet.
- Rumi also kills Mr. Me-Mania, after he attacks Mima's agent.
- Mima also sees the imaginary-Mima, representing her own uncertainty about her career and her feeling of powerlessness.
- At the end, when imaginary-Mima is trying to kill real-Mima, we are seeing both Rumi's and Mima's delusions at once.
- Rumi may be drugging Mima and causing her hallucinations; she always seems to be hanging around Mima's apartment and giving her tea, and Mima keeps finding her place rearranged when she wakes up.

I'm sure there is plenty to quibble with there and that there are other reasonable explanations, but the story is constructed too carefully for me to think it is just supposed to be illogical.
posted by Mars Saxman at 9:22 AM on January 20, 2004

Response by poster: One appealing reading, distilled somewhat from the answers so far (which are both great--thanks), is that imaginary-Mima is a being with its own identity, born out of the collective fantasies of real-Mima, Rumi, and Mr. Me-Mania. But it's not clear how much agency she has--I'm not sure, for example, that under the film's narrative rules she'd be capable of purchasing the clothes that were used in the murder of the photographer.

I initially thought that Rumi killed the photographer. But if that's the case, why does it look, to the viewer, as if real-Mima is killing the photographer? The film's rules seem to imply that real-Mima is a constant--that is, she is always doing what she appears to be doing, though other characters may not, or may not even exist. (On the other hand, what you don't often know is whether Mima is acting in the TV show, or performing an action for real.) You could argue that Mima dreams the photographer's murder but doesn't commit it, but in that case there's a continuity flaw--she wouldn't know what the clothes used in the murder look like until she opened her closet and saw them there.

I didn't pick up on the extent to which her room is rearranged--I'll watch for that on a second viewing.
posted by Prospero at 11:18 AM on January 20, 2004

Oh, man, now I need to go re-watch that movie...

Has anyone seen Millenium Actress, the follow-up by the same director? I watched about 20 minutes and got bored.
posted by mkultra at 11:48 AM on January 20, 2004

I saw Millenium Actress. I agree it was kind of boring, and kind of annoying, actually. I would have liked Ms. Actress to get over that guy she never even spoke to and gotten on with her life. What the hell, lady?

I felt like I understood Perfect Blue when I watched but, but reading this thread I am suspecting that maybe I didn't get it at all. It's been awhile since I've seen it, though, so I can't tell you why I thought I understood it.
posted by jennyb at 12:49 PM on January 20, 2004

I initially thought that Rumi killed the photographer. But if that's the case, why does it look, to the viewer, as if real-Mima is killing the photographer?

I had always assumed that the real Mima killed the photographer. Now that you mention it, I can see where it also could have been Rumi, though... but the connection with the dream and the bloody clothes seems to strongly suggest that it was the real Mima.

I didn't pick up on the extent to which her room is rearranged--I'll watch for that on a second viewing.

This is the number one thing that creeps me out whenever I see Perfect Blue. Something about it is just unsettling. Especially the part where the television news repeats itself precisely, only this time some of the things in the room are different. *shiver*

The thing that's always been a bit confusing to me is, who exactly is it that speaks the last line of the film, in the car outside of the mental hospital? I always thought it was Mima's co-actress in the TV show, which kind of sheds some light on the eerie feel of some of their scenes together... but I'm not entirely sure, it has been a while.

By the way, the English dub for Perfect Blue is worth watching for hilarity value alone. It turned the movie into a black comedy, at least for me. "You're a tarnished woman... like a slut!" Classic.
posted by vorfeed at 1:35 PM on January 20, 2004

I watched about 20 minutes and got bored.

I really though there was something wrong with me. I'm glad I'm not alone.

The beginning of MA was interesting, the idea of taking the interviewer and assistant and having them chase her around her memories was cool at first, but it just got dull.

OT some more, if anyone watched Madonna's concert on HBO within the last two years, you may have noticed the rape scene from Perfect Blue playing on the great big video screen at some point.
posted by eyeballkid at 3:09 PM on January 20, 2004

Satoshi Kon's third film Tokyo Godfathers is out now. Sounds like chalk and cheese to this though. Watched it with the wife last weekend, and it's a perfect christmas movie in the vein of "It's a wonderful life".

Interesting to note that unlike the latter two films, he didn't write Perfect Blue.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 7:12 PM on January 20, 2004

I just saw Millenium Actress a few weeks ago, and I would agree that it's pretty slow at the start. However, if you stick around to till the end, it really pays off (emotionally speaking) in the third act.
posted by Dirjy at 8:29 PM on January 20, 2004

I loved millenium actress.
posted by corpse at 1:16 PM on January 22, 2004

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