Here’s a film that I would never have even considered ever watching. I’ve never been a big fan of Japanese animation. I don’t like all that big tear drops thing and all the creepy sexuality. I loved “Akira”, because it felt like a real sci-fi movie more than an anime. I also saw most of “Howl’s Moving Castle” and liked most of what I saw. I’m not the type of person to get excited to hear that an anime is coming to an art house theater near me. I heard about this movie from a friend and somewhat dismissed it. I was happy for him, but I didn’t particularly care. Then today I wanted to go see a movie so I checked Yahoo and saw that there wasn’t really anything I wanted to see playing (or wanted to see without my girlfriend). I saw that “Paprika” (or “Papurika” in Japanese) was playing in Waltham so I went onto Youtube to see if there was anything that struck me as interesting. I found a 3 minute clip that basically sealed the deal for my day plans. The clip was terrifying intense and creepy. I loved it.
The film is like nothing I have ever seen before. It was directed by Satoshi Kon, a well known Japanese animation director (not as well known over here as Miyazaki). From beginning to end I was on the edge of my seat. It is a visual marvel. It actually overemphasizes visual over character but it doesn’t weaken it for me. One of the characters, a police detective, was actually the most developed character and turned out to be my favorite.
Here’s the plot, as best as I can describe it (it’s a fairly confusing film, but that isn’t a flaw). The movie is set in what appears to be a futuristic style society. A new technology is the center of the film and it is called the “D.C. Mini.” This gadget projects ones dreams onto a screen and can also be like a network connection so that others can be part of the dream. The inventors of the product intend its use for the psychologically ill. Unfortunately, the D.C. Mini has gone missing and in the wrong hands, everything could and does become a nightmare. Paprika is a spirit like girl who is like a savior within the dream world and is controlled and guided by the doctors. That is where the film goes into it’s story. Like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” the film isn’t necessarily about the technology, it is the film itself that is the process how people are affected by it.
The movie in my mind is genius. It is a very original film but it feels a lot like something that would be stirred up in a collaboration between Philip K. Dick and David Lynch (like “A Scanner Darkly” meets “Blue Velvet”). The distinction between the real world and the dream world is often hard to follow but it is what makes the film so cerebral.
There is also a lot of memorable imagery. There is a certain doll like girl who waves and slightly tilts her smiling head that creates an huge ominous feeling. Also, the dream world is cleverly addressed. Like “Eternal Sunshine”, Satoshi creates imagery that reminds us of how difficult or frustrating a dream can be. When the detective is trying to run through the hall and the floor is sweeping up behind him like a rug, we can feel his irritation. There is also a lot of frightening imagery from the film’s main villain but I don’t want to give too much away.
One final thing is something that I have been reading in more prominent criticisms of the film. This type of animation puts ours to shame. Our kiddie shit is nothing compared to this well thought out film. The film is sheer brilliance, frame by frame. I seriously want you to consider seeing this in the theater if at all possible. If not, that’s fine but do try to see it some time in the future. You have never seen anything like “Paprika.” I give “Paprika” an A.