Borders Line: Is BLACK SWAN The PERFECT BLUE Remake We’ve Been Waiting For?

In a word: no. In three more words: IT’S EVEN BETTER.

And, you know, Black Swan is a chilling psycho-thriller about Nina, a young (ballet) star who embraces the darkness within her in order to achieve her dream (becoming the lead player in Swan Lake). She alienates, she’s got an overbearing but loving mom who disapproves, emotional torment, tenuous grasp on reality, and a doppelganger who represents both her mental anguish and the duality of her soul. Check, check and check.

This isn’t really a debate of whether Perfect Blue is a direct inspiration for Black Swan; Aronofsky has already categorically denied that claim, and who am I to argue?  He acknowledges, however, that there are many similarities, and not just in the plot. Several times in Black Swan, Nina rests her head against the window on the subway and is shocked to find her doppelganger staring back at her, as happens to Mima constantly throughout Perfect Blue. Reflections indeed play a big part in the visual vocabulary of both films, as do shadows, photographs and paintings of Nina and Mima, all manipulated and skewed to represent the characters’ tumultuous identities.

My point is that, now that we have Black Swan, we no longer need a live action remake of Perfect Blue. Aronofsky, as steward of the rights and the talent, would be the man to do it, and in Black Swan he takes the best parts of Perfect Blue and turns them into something more. By changing the star’s profession from a pop idol/actress into a prima ballerina, Aronofsky adds legitimacy and severity to the story.  Mima labors for acceptance by agreeing to participate in aggressively sexual scenes and fully nude photo shoots. Nina’s struggle for acclaim is more pervasive, affecting every aspect of her life. She starves herself, induces vomiting, self-mutilates, and submits fully to the advances of her controlling director. While Perfect Blue is plenty thrilling, Black Swan is harrowing. Merciless, even! And of course the ultimate achievement of Black Swan is Natalie Portman’s transcendent performance. We simply watch as Mima descends into her nightmare; the audience fully shares in Nina’s terror. Tchaikovsky’s score, adapted by Clint Mansell, makes a devastating accompaniment to the drama onscreen in Black Swan. Unfortunately the funky stylings of CHAM!, Mima’s J-pop group, don’t really compare—awesome as they are.

After spending the past decade or so advocating for a live-action remake of Perfect Blue , it feels super strange to be all, “No thanks! You can keep it!” now. But Aronofsky improves upon everything I love about the anime with such spectacular histrionics, it’s hard to imagine how another film could satisfy. That said, if you haven’t seen Perfect Blue, you simply must!

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