Thursday, August 20, 2009

Perfect Blue (movie review)

This animation dovetailed with some of the thinking I've been doing regarding points of view, i.e first, second and third person viewpoints.

We have a tradition in western civ (eastern too) of allowing a movie camera to play the role of omniscient observer, akin to the novelist's voice in most fiction, able to boldly go where no mortal embodied human could go.

Even where non-fiction is concerned, whenever "the whole story" gets told, it's usually such that no one individual could be said to have witnessed the whole business -- which is why "assembling the puzzle pieces" (in a puzzle palace) is so the right metaphor. We use the 3rd person to tell stories from a point of view to which storytellers lay claim, but not as eyewitnesses. All of history is like this, which in some ways makes it suspect, inauthentic, always open to re-tellings (happens every day).

Stories that hold water allow for cross-checking, omni- triangulation. Stories that leak like a sieve consist almost entirely of loose ends.

To remind yourself of how easily we take the "omniscient camera" for granted, imagine an intimate kissing scene wherein a protagonist suddenly points to the audience and says "what's that camera doing here?" -- in Blair Witch Project maybe, but that's not the usual convention.

Per the "spectator viewpoint", inherited from theater going back to the very beginning of thespianism, the audience is not "in the play" yet is a witness to a re-enactment (a drama). Such an audience may be privy to secrets none of the players gets to know. No wonder we like theater and TV so much: we get the surrender the burden of just being a lowly first person, stuck in a body, having no clue (or precious few).

In this film, ownership of the paranoid stalking fantasy is problematic in that it's somewhat unclear whose nightmare belongs to whom. The stalker creep and the protagonist heroine are both in communication with the same "good girl" ghost, who stays the course as an innocent pop star in a somewhat superficial child-like world, versus a more mature adult actress with merely one line as an extra, but with offers of more exposure if only she'll consent to exploring a dark side, becoming a rape victim for the cameras, a porn star.

Everyone having the nightmare is torn by the same "loss of innocence" dichotomy, so it's a coming of age story.

In terms of a whodunit, there's a tentative resolution in the denouement, however the climax, a dizzying vertigo of waking up, realizing it's a dream, just a movie, just a mirage, just a dream again, casts existential doubt on any "outcome". The wall between illusion and reality is deliberately eroded in the editing (self consciously, as a theme), somewhat undermining any literal solution to the puzzle, and yet we get there in the end (just barely though).

What interested me a lot were the urban landscapes, the zoom outs from a modern Japan. Like Crumb, these artists make no effort to artificially prettify. The clutter, crass commercialism, ala cinéma vérité, is front and center. Our star is a hard working single girl in a big lonely city, with the Internet just making it seem even bigger and lonelier (her stalker writes her blog).

This "stark reality" motif is fairly standard in horror movies (this one is gruesome enough to qualify, though a cartoon), as we're more likely to appreciate the disintegration of a psyche, the incursion of the extraordinary (the surreal), against the backdrop of the everyday, the mundane.

Charles Dickens used a similar technique in A Christmas Carol, other works.

The sentimentality of a "sugarized" G or PG vista, more expected of childrens cartoons and happy talk TV drug commercials for anti-depressants (usually featuring comfortably middle class boomers with coverage) suggests is a different kind of surreality, a lack of authenticity, an artificial veneer.

Sometimes people start wars (or return to 'em) because they get tired of such surreal PG shallowness. Some artists make it their business to provide more constructive (as in satisfying) forms of sublimation, a better alchemy. "Spin doctors" may provide this as well. TV shows like Lost come to mind, or Six Feet Under.

However, most so-called "reality TV" so far fails to fit the bill, is too tawdry and cheap and therefore unlikely to transmit any real "people skills" at the end of the day. Couch potatoes addicted to such fluff grow up to be revengeful nerds, stay larval, never learn to play World Game with much coordination. Yet they call themselves "programmers"?

We have a viral health epidemic of "unreality TV" programming, with drug commercials paving the way. Note that I'm not "against drugs" (on the contrary), am no Quaker teetotaler. It's the TV commercials I find ridiculous, patronizing, nakedly exploitative, in combination with the hypocrisy of keeping naturally occurring, potentially inexpensive ones unaffordable (i.e. "out of bounds").

No wonder people feel depressed, get suicidal: they're surrounded by fraudulence and low integrity predators, various brands of "killer capitalism" that even hard core capitalists can't stomach (our hero Fuller called it Obnoxico, and fought it all his life).