Dreamgirl

Paprika leaps into the collective consciousnessand spices it up

Satoshi has long been interested in the different ways people can perceive reality—though all his movies are set in the "real" world, the intrusion of fantasy elements via altered states of consciousness is a recurring theme, and animation allows him to unapologetically switch between the real and the unreal often without clear boundaries. Millennium Actress, the closest antecedent to Paprika, featured characters jumping in and out of movies that represented the entire history of Japan, and now the movies have become dreams that can even intrude into the waking mind. In fact, it was Millennium Actress that inspired author Yasutaka Tsutsui to approach Satoshi about adapting his popular Paprika story to the big screen . . . a project, it turned out, that Satoshi had wanted to do for years. Tsutsui nails dream dialogue perhaps better than anyone since David Lynch in Twin Peakslines like "They need to fully realize the liver of the triangle rulers!" seem absurd, but then we get to enter the dream where the words can become almost absurdly literalized. (Satoshi and Yasutaka both make vocal cameos as dream-world bartenders.)

When Satoshi's first film, Perfect Blue, hit these shores, it was accompanied by a rather obtuse quote from Roger Corman, who enthused that it was like Alfred Hitchcock meets Walt Disney. Though there are a couple of visual nods to the Mouse House in Paprika's climax, Satoshi has a distinctive style all his own that might better be described as Hayao Miyazaki meets Roman Polanski. He never loses a childlike sense of wonder, but there's a maturity and sexuality to his work that can feel quite dangerous. How many animated features have you seen lately that feature throwaway bits about how one of the characters is probably a pedophile?

Like many anime films with complicated plots, Paprika can be too much to take in on a single viewing—so many visuals, so many plot complications. I'm still not entirely clear what the villain's master plan is; at first, he seems anti-technology, anti-dream intrusion, but later, he seems to want to collectivize all dreams by himself. The finale relies perhaps more on dream logic than actual logic, and viewers who accept surrealist reality dislocation in their art-house movies but not so much in cartoons might have trouble rolling with it. But to those who can give themselves over to Satoshi's fever dream and allow both the inner child and the adult to come out and play, rest assured—you're in the playground of a master.

PAPRIKA WAS DIRECTED BY SATOSHI KON; AND WRITTEN BY SEISHI MINAKAMI AND SATOSHI KON, FROM THE STORY BY YASUTAKA TSUTSUI. SCREENS TUES., APRIL 24, 7 P.M. AT LIDO REGENCY THEATER.

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