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(Credit: Satoshi Kon)

Film

Satoshi Kon once criticised Darren Aronofsky for copying 'Perfect Blue'

There aren’t too many names in the realm of Japanese animation that are as significant as the late Satoshi Kon, the creative genius behind such works as Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers and Paprika

A director, animator, screenwriter and manga artist from Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Kon is known for creating some of the most influential anime movies ever made, creating dreamlike works of fantasy that have since been copied by several western filmmakers. Writing the Magnetic Rose portion of the 1995 anthology movie Memories, Kon made his directorial debut two years later with Perfect Blue, a stunning, contemporary drama that would help him find international success. 

Based on Yoshikazu Takeuchi’s novel of the same name, the film is a suspense story that follows a superstar who struggles to separate the real world from her own imagination, losing her identity as she is lost to popular culture. So influential was the tale that the American filmmaker Darren Aronofsky would borrow several elements and shots for both 2000s Requiem for a Dream and 2010s Oscar-winner Black Swan.

Speaking in a lecture series in 2007, Satoshi Kon was told by the American director that such scenes were taken in “homage” to his classic animation; however, in the opinion of many fans and filmmakers, Aronofsky’s copying went far beyond what should be considered as such. 

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His creative swiping is most flagrantly obvious in Requiem for a Dream, Aronofsky’s analysis of depression, addiction and drug abuse that follows the lives of four people who have been deeply affected by such substances. Starring the likes of Jared Leto, Ellen Burstyn, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly, the movie is considered to be a dark stylistic modern classic, with Burstyn picking up a nomination for Best Actress in a Leading Role in 2001.

As Kon asserts in the lecture, Aronofsky steals one key scene of Perfect Blue, namely the moment in which the protagonist Mima Kirigoe is having a mental breakdown and floats in her bathtub in the fetal position. Capturing the moment from directly above the character, looking down, before cutting to a close-up of her face screaming into the water, with this exact moment copied in Requiem for a Dream.

Whilst Kon seems somewhat fine with Aronofsky copying his work in the aforementioned 2007 interview, at the time of the American movie’s release at the start of the 2000s, the director wasn’t best pleased. As described in this blog post that discusses the “homage”, Satoshi Kon states, “I’m feeling pathetic. It’s a pitiful tale when the person being paid homage to has less name recognition, less social credibility and less budget to spend”. 

Requiem for a Dream was actually based on the book of the same name by author Hubert Selby Jr, but you can’t deny the flagrant similarities between the film and the animation. What’s more, if Aronofsky didn’t copy Perfect Blue in 2000, he certainly did in 2010 with the release of Black Swan, a film that almost reflects Kon’s movie beat-for-beat.