Monday, April 26, 2010

Archive: "Paprika" (2007)

Satoshi Kon ("Tokyo Godfathers," "Millennium Actress") is another feature-length anime movie director, not to be confused with Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away," "Howl's Moving Castle"). Although I had only been familiar with Miyazaki, now that I've seen the total head trip that is "Paprika," I'm more interested than ever. With a tag line that states "This is your brain on anime," you have to know what you're getting yourself into. My best advice is to surrender all that you know and dive into this delusional and bizarre adventure; the rush you get will be worth your effort.

I admit that for some portions of the movie I was pretty baffled as to what exactly was going on, but I was no more confused here than while watching the third "Pirates" movie. And frankly, "Paprika" is half the length and twice the excitement. The thickly plotted story hinges on a futuristic device called the DC Mini that allows psychiatrists to tap into the dreams of their patients. This dream machine shows enormous potential, but also presents obvious dangers with its power. Three workers from the psychiatric institution get involved with the suspicious disappearance of several of the DC Mini devices. There's the main woman in charge, Dr. Atsuko Chiba; her genius colleague, Dr. Kosaku Tokita, who invented the missing gadget and also happens to be an enormously obese slob; and lastly, the midget, toad-eyed Dr. Torataro Shima, otherwise just known as the Chief.

Involved in the mess is also a man named Toshimi Konakawa. The movie opens with his dream where perspectives are bent and things transform right before our eyes with scenery changes that blend from one to the other. He's at a circus, but then falls into the setting of a suspense film, and then a romantic film, followed by a Tarzan flick. His recurring nightmare involves his supposed hatred of movies; he is a past movie director haunted by his incomplete film where he eventually sees himself shooting his other self in the back. The connections to his actual life point out that there's not much difference between the movies and our reality. This satisfying side plot alone brings up just one of the many poignant questions about where fantasy ends and reality begins. Konakawa even visits a website that sucks him in right before his eyes, which brings up how virtual the reality of the internet is.

The search for the DC Minis includes Konakawa cracking the mystery of his own dream, while Dr. Chiba engulfs herself into even more dreams with a spunky, red-headed sprite named Paprika. This sexy sidekick who sprouts wings, along with plenty of other transformations, is actually Chiba's alter-ego who is the main indicator of whether or not she's in a dream. Soon, however, there comes a point in which Chiba is no longer in a dream, and yet, Paprika is right there by her. As the dream invading intensifies, soon all of the different dreams start bleeding into one another and then eventually into reality itself. It's truly mind-bending stuff and becomes quite a bit overwhelming, too, especially when you're trying to take everything in and read subtitles at the same time.

The movie is stunning and a real sight to see. It's visually intoxicating with a rich blend of 3-D backgrounds and traditional animation. The dreamscape backdrop that takes up a large portion of the movie is absolutely captivating and enchanting. One main aspect of the dreams is a massive parade lead by a team of inanimate objects like refrigerators and other appliances. Further back in the line are frogs playing the trumpet, dancing dolls, random things on stilts, and hundreds of other various living and non-living things sporadically darting around to catch your eye. No matter how lost you may be in the plot, there's always something to look at and keep you entertained.

Unlike Miyazaki's latest works, Kon's piece is definitely not intended for children, hence it's R rating. This is animation for the mature crowd, which is really refreshing. This is purely adult anime and very intelligent stuff at that. While addressing many questions about our perception on reality and the dangers of science, the movie is intensely provocative, ecstatically fresh, and intricately made. "Paprika" could not be any more aesthetically pleasing.

No comments:

Post a Comment