Friday, June 1, 2007


Satoshi Kon's Paprika is a frequently beautiful movie about dreams, neurotic ones and others, but mostly controlling dreams. Specifically how they exert their own influences on the people who carry them. Plot: there's an invention (the DC Mini), created by a childish genius (Tokita) that allows people to enter each others' dreams and...well...just share them really. Actually controlling them, like lucid dreaming, is a pretty nebulous concept here. Perhaps one can coax insight from them instead. Some of the prototypes go missing, and while there are beneficial unauthorized uses of such things (as by Paprika, the instinctual therapist), suffice to say there's some dangerous circumstances when dreams are let loose; ambition and dreams mix uncontentedly. There's also a cop and an unsolved murder, and the chairman of the board, who doesn't seem to like any of this. And along the way Kon may show you a parade (probably no less fantastic if you happen to recognize some of the mystical creatures within).

The spectacles onscreen are entertaining and fun, but don't overwhelm the pretty straightforward ideas that presented, and which actually don’t collapse after a glance.* Quite the rare thing in anime. Kon is telling a story about creativity itself and the people who traffic in it. All geniuses are creative people, whether artists or scientists, and share the same drive. Its quite a refreshing thing to see the trappings of modernity not as something dehumanizing—harmony and well-being as being possible within modernity. Paprika has neither the abject simple wonder of technology of say, Steamboy, or fetishing as with Oshii or Shirow, or just retrograde, luddite thinking (anything in feudal French costume). Hayao Miyazaki probably sits somewhere between in this (he’s just melancholy). I’m sure one who spelunk further and other themes than that, like the connection between dreaming and movies that gets its own airing out, but I haven’t unpacked all the imagery just yet.

The most pleasant surprise to me, I will venture to add, were the women in the movie. That Dr. Chiba and Paprika are fully-realized people. Paprika has pretty traditional ideas about sex, but mature and respectful ones. And the women are active in the story. And as opposed to men with breasts and guns, they are adults.

It’s a movie about movies while not being about just this movie. It's about things Satoshi Kon has thought about before (and had more than one conversation about). It doesn’t lecture, and it entertains, and it’s warm and imaginative. That's more than you get most days, and not in your summer blockbusters.

*Oh Ghost in the Shell 2, you are the dumbest, boringest cyborg story ever made. Pretty though.


HoBs said...

Perfect Blue was one of my favorite movies, so this has been on my radar screen despite its wacky premise.

Maybe some day soon (23 days left), I'll have tiem to catch up on such things.

hcduvall said...

A point of interest to those who like Kon, Perfect Blue and Paprika are loose adaptations of someone else's work. I wonder if his success might stem at least in part from that being inspired by someone else's material might require.