Thursday, March 27, 2014

Paprika (2006): A Tale of Two Cities, With a Little Bit of Spice

Paprika (2006)
Dir: Satoshi Kon

The final finished movie of the late, great, Satoshi Kon was 2006's Paprika, a film exploring the space between what are considered to be polar opposites: reality and dreams. It was a continuation of Kon's fascination of the spaces between, as well as what perception is to reality, as he previously explored in Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress. Kon, as always, is also fascinated with the exploration of film itself, and the storytelling devices within, including meta-filmmaking, and what it means to make a meta film.

The title character Paprika is a dream-world alternate persona created by the psychiatrist Dr. Chiba for use during dream sessions with her patients. Where Dr. Chiba is a serious woman with black hair and a stern, professional demeanor, Paprika is a redhead with bright clothing and a chipper demeanor. Using a new device called the DC Mini, Dr. Chiba is able to insert herself into her patients' dreams to analyze them and to create a deeper connection.

Somebody has stolen a few extra DC Minis, and is using them to start penetrating even the waking conscious of anybody who has used the DC Mini at any point to pull them into a singular dream world. That dream world is a chaotic parade of toys, technology, and symbols marching to...somewhere, absorbing and destroying any and all of the participants that it brings into its reality. Now, Dr. Chiba, her boss, and Dr Tokita, the inventor of the DC Mini, must figure out who stole the DC Minis, and stop them from taking over the minds of the world.

Of course, that description barely even scratches the surface of what Paprika does, which is float in between reality, dream world, the internet and cinema with a reckless abandon that is breathtakingly fluid. The relative straightforwardness of the plot is just a device on which Kon hangs his favorite obsessions. He opens the movie with a dream collage based in several different movies establishing a detective character and patient through his recurring nightmare. Then, it flows right into a dream-like reality opening credits sequence where Paprika breaks all the laws of reality as the credits are projected onto the reality of the buildings.

Kon's obsessions with where real life ends and our perception begins causes the worlds to beat and bash at each other throughout the movie, creating an almost hallucinatory sense of what is actually being put on screen. Which is exactly what the medium of animation should be used for: to create a fully integrated world where reality isn't what it could be. Like Spirited Away, the animation used in Paprika creates a fictional world where it feels like anything can happen.

Kon's intentions is purely to have fun and a nightmare world is part of that fun. If you're frightened, grossed out,'s all part of the game that Kon plays with his audience. Those feelings are the opposite of the light-hearted, carefree feeling that much of the film creates. All of this adds to the themes of opposites - old vs young, new vs old, technology vs luddite, dreams vs reality, man vs woman, good vs evil, fat vs skinny, mental vs physical, life vs death, etc. - that Kon injects throughout Paprika. Even in the parade, old fashioned Japanese toys mix with robots, and refrigerators lead the dolls. Kon seems to be calling for the new Japanese culture that has been brewing since before the '00s to not completely reject the old Japanese culture it seems intent on ousting. What Kon wants is a culture that is based in the new but doesn't forget the old, and has a bit of a twist to it all in order to make things original.

Paprika is a movie to obsess over. There's a lot of information to process the first time through as you're being pulled in and out of the various worlds that Kon creates. It's a hell of a lot of fun too. It's only flaw is a single use of bizarre sexual violence to create a feeling of violation, but even that seems to be about emotional wreckage more than evil dudes just being evil. Leaving that little bit out, it is an excellent mind trip of a movie that remains Kon's most accomplished work.

No comments:

Post a Comment