PREVIEW: Perfect Blue

Perfect Blue is a 1997 anime film directed by Satoshi Kon (also known for Paprika). The film follows a retired musician who becomes an actress, and in the process, loses her grip on reality. A critically acclaimed psychological thriller, the film focuses on identity, voyeurism, and performance – particularly that of modern pop idols.

I initially heard about this film after seeing many parallels drawn between Perfect Blue and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, and was under the impression that the latter was inspired by the anime. However, upon further research I have found that Aronofsky denied this while acknowledging the similarities. Still, I am curious to see how Perfect Blue could have served as a jumping off point for the more recent film – as I do enjoy Black Swan – and am also interested to see how it translates as an anime. Given the similarities between the two films, I am also intrigued by the limits of both live action and animation, and what one makes possible that the other cannot achieve.

Perfect Blue is showing as part of the State Theater’s Late Night series on Friday, October 21 at 9:30pm.


The Batman, 2022 / Spoiler Alert!


If we look at the evolution of superhero movies decades later, I think it will be a pretty interesting anthropology resource. All superheroes symbolize justice but the social norm of justice changes over time. This happened in the new batman as well.

New society, new villains. The villains in this movie do not work on personal, fictional motivation like pride or psycopathy. Instead, in this movie, they are the ones who were harmed systematically. The villain is not lone genius anymore – they are people who urge others to turn to violence with them to break down the society, and the most vicious crisis was aroused when they worked as a group. This resembles the spread of hatred on the internet and violent crimes happening in consequence of those messages. The metaphor to the modern society was quite clear – the riddled even blatantly talked like a  youtube or user of another Social Media platform, thanking the viewers for their support. I was almost expecting a ‘please like and subscribe…’.

The classic hero changed with the society to address the new messages aginst the evil as well. Bruce Wayne, if I remember correctly from prior films, was torn between his identity as a billionaire and the mysterious superhero and the dilemma of the personal judgment of justice was his main worry. For this new Batman, however, whether it’s known who’s under the bat-mask is not such an existential problem. This batman seems to be more careless about it (he got almost unmasked by a curious policeman after he was unconscious due to a bomb explosion) and the Riddler even says that who’s under the mask “does not matter”. If the former batman hides deeper inside himself to solve his doubts, this one comes out. The scene where batman leads the civilian out of the water with the red light and help carry wounded citizens clearly showed that this batman demonstrates a new notion of peace-not one that is magically achieved by a lone superhero, but one that is led by a superhero symbol but that can be achieved together. This batmans stands with the people, and that reminded me of the appeal in the society to unite together to fight the wrong. Batman with the mysteriousness reduced, interacting with the people was a new change. Almost like a friendly neighborhood… No, that’s another guy.

This movie is dark-literally. It had a lot of rain in the scenes and ones that minimal light is used. This led to many visually highly satisfying scenes-my favorite was the one where the screen was all dark and the movement of the characters was illuminated only with the fire from the end of the gun. Also, I saw the rain as more than the weather- with the final crisis being the flood, water could mean the danger to the city, and the rain could represent that the city was in danger. In all, highly recommend this movie. Go check it out!

REVIEW: The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World is an anthology of sorts, chronicling a young woman’s struggles with making meaningful connections, navigating her career, and establishing her general place in the world. This sounds extremely cliché on paper, and I hate to say it but it somewhat held true in the film as well. 


I will firstly recognize that there’s a very strong chance I simply didn’t connect with this film. Sometimes that just doesn’t happen. There was still a sense of quality to the production and the performances did feel genuine, so maybe the fact that I walked away feeling very little is moreso a matter of a personal misalignment.


That said, I think there are a few other factors that caused me to feel so neutral. The style of the film felt a little inconsistent and choppy, this owing greatly to a scene involving psychedelics. All the established conventions of the drama that had been unfolding thus far were eschewed in favor of overblown effects, animation, and surreal sequences. I understand that there’s a lot of fun, playful techniques that can be used to convey an experience like that and there are moments of quick, pastiche editing earlier in the film, but in this case it just felt out of place and a little indulgent. Another particular instance of a chapter that didn’t fit quite right was a short one that used constructed media clips that we watch the protagonist watch. This isn’t inherently bad but it just felt disjointed in terms of style.


Another manifestation of this choppiness was the excessive structuring of the narrative. There was a prologue, an epilogue, and twelve individually named chapters between. For an ultimately chronological story, these separations felt unnecessary and moreso a chance for foreshadowing puns and dramatic titling. I do think it was an interesting mode of pacing for viewers, but making sections more discrete didn’t serve the narrative’s development and the emotional shifts of the film. 


Lastly, the paths of the characters all intersected far too neatly. This could be a style choice akin to the surreal moments in the film, but the way people floated in and out of the protagonist’s life felt a bit too convenient. The first few instances made sense, but there’s a specific reveal at the end of the movie that just made me roll my eyes. 


Any of these thoughts could certainly change on a second watch, but the fact of the matter is that I left the State thinking about other works that make the same points as this film, but better (see: Shiva Baby, Fleabag, etc). I still encourage a watch as I think this film is doing some interesting things with cinematography and has some thought-provoking points, but it’s definitely not going to be my film of the year.

PREVIEW: The Worst Person in the World

Firstly– it’s great to be back reviewing for [art]seen! I’m looking forward to wrapping up my final semester chatting about some great art.


The Worst Person in the World is a Norwegian drama about understanding love and growing into one’s own self. It was nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and is now up for multiple Oscars. Besides that, the trailer looks equal parts genuine and hilarious. As our local theaters show nominees for award show season over the next month, I highly recommend taking advantage of so many showings of quality work!


The film is now showing at the State– if anything, you’ll be able to make plenty of absolutely awful jokes with a play on words of the title.

REVIEW: Drive My Car

Drive My Car is a Japanese film based on a short story of the same name from Men Without Women, a collection of short stories by Haruki Murakami. The film follows theater actor Yūsuke Kafuku as he directs a production of Uncle Vanya by Chekhov two years after the death of his wife.

I have had some exposure to Murakami’s work, having previously seen the film Burning, which is based on another of Murakami’s short stories, and having read part of his novel The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I really enjoyed Burning, how slow and meandering it felt while building and maintaining a quiet sense of tension and mystery. I found out Burning was based on a Murakami story after I realized Drive My Car reminded me of it, in terms of pacing but also the way in which the female characters were perhaps quite evidently written by a man. I have only read part of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle because I thought three manic pixie dream girls was maybe too many, but after watching the entirety of Drive My Car, I do want to return to the novel and see what Murakami has to say. 

It turns out that Murakami’s works are worth sticking out to the end – especially Drive My Car. Once we get past Murakami’s formulaic introductions of a lone, troubled male protagonist, and the sultry and promiscuous women in his life, we uncover a central theme of grief. Though this overall message of the film is not particularly revolutionary or unheard of, it is the way in which it is expressed that makes it worth noting. I ended up reading the short story after watching the film, and I really liked how writer-director Ryusuku Hamaguchi emulated the almost nonchalant delivery of the short story’s message. Though the film has more dramatic moments, it’s the slow buildup to get to these moments that feels faithful to the source material. The film feels like a natural development and continuation of Murakami’s original story. 

Furthermore, the film reminds us that when our words fail us, we can find and express ourselves through art. For Kafuku’s wife it is through her screenplays, and for Kafuku and his scene partners, it is through performance. And the film also reminds us that we can find solace in knowing we are not alone in our grief, even if it is through a temporary companionship. Drive My Car doesn’t move you to tears, but I like to think it doesn’t need to.


I REALLY wanted to like Belle.

I’ve loved many of Mamoru Hosoda’s other movies: Summer Wars, Wolf Children, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and of course the O.G.: Digimon Adventure 1999 (my childhood). My gut reaction after watching Belle was to go back and rewatch all of those instead.

Belle is an animated film adaptation of Beauty and the Beast that follows a high school student named Suzu who escapes the insecurity and loneliness of her real life through ‘U’, a dazzling virtual alternate universe where she can be someone completely different. Her virtual persona quickly rises to extreme popularity and she has to navigate these dual versions of herself while going through the trials and triumphs of high school, love, friendship, and grief.

Let’s start with the Good:
[1] The animation was BEAUTIFUL. I mean OH MY GOODNESS can we sit and appreciate how far animation has come in the last decade? The depictions of the alternate Digiverse ‘U’ were so effective at showing how vast it was, how many detailed moving parts there were within it. The characters truly came alive on screen as people with blood, sweat, and tears.
[2] The sound design was also incredible. Suzu’s singing features prominently throughout as a metaphor for her confidence in herself and her love for her mother. The songs were all super catchy and well written and lingered in my mind long after the movie ended.

Alas, now we must go onto the reasons this movie was not my cup of tea, despite the great art and sound:
[1] The story was a big bowl of confusion soup. In a sci-fi movie about the metaverse, I expect the plot to be a little out there, but some things in this movie just go beyond logical human behavior. After the umpteenth weird sideball I could no longer suspend my disbelief. The story felt weak and underdeveloped.

[2] This movie wanted so bad to be a character-driven film, and it almost got there! At the beginning, the writing was strong – the main character Suzu had a powerful backstory that set the audience up to understand her struggles and root for her. And listen, I admire an aspirational storyteller. But if stories are onions, this one had about 10 too many layers. There’s a random scene that’s supposed to nod at Beauty and the Beast but it doesn’t make sense given the characters and doesn’t mesh with the rest of the story. Near the end of the movie the tone suddenly goes from adventurous to extremely serious and then back to playful so quickly I got whiplash. Not even the most masterful chef could fold that many plotlines into one and tie them up with a neat little bow. But that is what this movie tried to do and the result was a cliche ending that didn’t seem resonant with the important questions posed at the beginning of the movie: How do we continue living with joy when we’ve lost the irreplaceable? How do we learn to love ourselves? How do we rediscover our love for the things we loved as children? I’ve heard Hosoda described as a “maximalist” storyteller and here I’d have to agree — there was too much, and as a result there wasn’t enough.

All in all, if you’re an anime connoisseur then I would say give this a watch for the dazzling animation. But life is short, and in my humble opinion Hosoda’s Summer Wars is much, much better — spend your two hours in that world instead.