Monday, June 6, 2011

Paprika (2006)

Title: Paprika (2006)

Director: Satoshi Kon


Dream movies are some of my favorite films, because they explore that strange, surreal, alluring world of the subconscious, and as we all know, every time we slip into dream world, anything goes. In Paprika, a dream machine called “The DC Mini” has been created as a way to perform psychotherapy. With the DC Mini, you can enter someone’s dreams, record them, so that you can re-watch them and analyze them when you wake up.

Is That Chiba Atsuko or Paprika?

I’ve always wanted a machine that could record dreams, because to be honest I've had some really bizarre ones! I mean, I read so much science fiction and horror, that my brains has tons of cool things to feed of on when it decides to dream!  If I could record them, they would make awesome movies. I wouldnt mind having that ability, to re-watch and analyze my dreams. Problem with some of my dreams is that they tend to disappear from my memory mere minutes after I wake up. For example just this morning I had this crazy dream that was a mix between Mad Max, Dirty marry Crazy Larry and Drive Angry! I remember it being awesome, and I do remember a couple of fragments from it, but do I remember every single little exciting moment from it? No. That’s where a DC Mini would come in handy! I remember thinking damn, I should make a film out of this freaking dream, but alas, after the day got going, that cool dream simply disappeared into my subconscious. This is the reason why Dream Journals are suggested. The  way to do it is, you take a little notebook and a pen and keep them next to your bed. Instantly the moment you wake up from your dream, you write down everything you dreamed, as much as you can remember and as fast as you can. Try to leave no details out.  You'll be surprised at the crazy things you'll find when you re-read it a couple of days later. 

I don’t necessarily think “dreams are just dreams” as many seem to think. Yeah they are whacked out and crazy, and no they don’t subscribe to reality, but they do represent whatever it is that worries us the most, whatever occupies most of the time in our minds will somehow end up in dreams. I don’t believe in dreams as a premonition, or dreams as visions, but I do think dreams are our brains way of processing our life experiences, sometimes it’s the smallest little detail we see during the day that pops up in our dream, sometimes its some age old situation we’ve been carrying around somewhere in the back of our minds through out our whole life. For example, in Paprika one of the main characters had a traumatic experience happen to him when he was a young boy, and he keeps having a recurrent dream about it over and over again. So much so that he’s secretly visiting an entity known as Paprika to help him deal with it.

The main problem in Paprika comes when the DC Mini’s are stolen from the lab where they are being manufactured. Since these stolen DC Mini’s are prototypes, they allow anyone using it to enter anyone’s dreams at any time and the person who stole it is using it for just that purpose. So suddenly random people are having waking dreams, where they walk with their eyes wide open, but they are experiencing their respective dreams at the same time. It’s up to the main characters in the film to find out just who stole these dream machines, and stop them before all of Japan goes dream crazy.

This is the kind of film that feels a bit overwhelming when you watch it the first time, there’s so many details, so much to see. The dreams are literally filled with thousands upon thousands of characters on all of which appear on screen at the same time. What a feat it must have been to animate all those characters! This is definetly the kind of film you have to see more than once to grasp completely, I don’t think one viewing will be enough to appreciate it all. One reviewer mentioned that this was a film not to be merely watched, but to be experienced. I totally agree. But again, Paprika says it best when she enters the dream world and says “Time for the greatest show on earth!” And its true, things do get pretty wild once we enter those dream sequences. A word of warning though, this just like the rest of Satashi Kon’s films are adult oriented, so expect some sexually charged dialog and a small amount of nudity. This isn’t a film for children.

An interesting aspect of the film is that one of the main characters in the film is a film buff/filmmaker so he is constantly analyzing the way films are made. I liked this angle of the film because the filmmakers took the opportunity to explore the similarities between the film world and the dream world, which I’ve always thought are pretty similar. In films, much like in dreams, anything can and does happen. A couple of scenes in Paprika actually take place inside of a movie theater where characters start talking about these similarities and the nature of films. After all, what are films if not a filmmakers dreams come to cinematic life? Even the internet is compared to dreams on this film. In one scene Paprika says to Detetive Kogawa: “Don’t you think dreams and the internet are similar? They are both areas where the repressed conscious mind vents”  

Paprika is based on the novel of the same name by Japanese author Yasutaka Tsutsui who also wrote the novel The Girl Who Leapt Through Time which recently got the animation treatment as well. Paprika was directed by Satashi Kon, an animator/director who’s films often times blend the borders between reality and fantasy, so I guess a film like Paprika was a natural step for him. There are moments in Paprika where the real world and the dream world collide! Often times you wont know if your watching a dream, or real life, which is part of the fun with this kind of film. While writing this review I discovered that Satashi Kon died last 08/24/2010 from pancreatic cancer, this came as a shock to manga and anime fans around the world. After all, this was the director behind such great films as Perfect Blue (1997), Millenium Actress (2001), and the very well received Tokyo Godfathers (2003) all of which come highly recommend. If you ever want to see an animated film that’s heavily influenced by David Lynch, check out Perfect Blue, yet another one of his films that blends the borders between the real and the fantastical; though that one is a bit darker in tone then Paprika which in contrast is bright and colorful. Before Satashi Kon passed away, he was working on what would have been his fifth film entitled The Dream Machine. He never got to finish it, but he did manage to leave storyboards for the project and recorded tapes of how he wanted the film to be made. Good news is that production for The Dream Machine is currently underway by the guys at Madhouse, one of the best animation studios in Japan . They are the guys behind such awesome animation films as Ninja Scroll, X, Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, all of Kon’s films and many others. So at least the project is in good hands. Looking forward to seeing that one soon.

On my review for Ghost in the Shell (1996) I mentioned how that film had influenced the Wachowski Bros. while making The Matrix (1999). They watched Ghost in the Shell, loved it and were inspired by it to make The Matrix. In fact, they went as far as to immitate entire sequences from Ghost in the Shell, showing once again that these Japanimation films are extremely influential on American filmmakers. The same can be said of Paprika, a film that influenced Christopher Nolan when the time came to make Inception. Watch both films back to back and watch similar images and situations pop up. One of the benefits of making an animated flick is that you dont have to worry about budget limitations, and you can go as wild and as crazy as your animators are willing to draw it. These animated films from Japan really take advantage of that. If you've never experienced a Japanese animated film, search out the good ones and take a leap towards discovering how amazing some of these films are, I dont think you'll be dissapointed.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Is that Ellen Page or is that Paprika?


Cherokee said...

Paprika blew me away when I first saw it when I was about 13 or so, and still remains one of my favourite films (all of Satoshi Kon's work does). If you haven't checked out his TV show, Paranoia Agent, I highly recommend you do.

And I think it wasn't just a blow to the anime community (because I have completely lost interest in the 'now' anime), but for the film industry. That's why I was kind of disgusted not to see Kon in the obituaries at the Oscar's this year.

Nice to see someone writing about Kon, though. I don't see that many reviews revolving around his films, and it is always great to read-up what people think about his stuff.

Really liked your review on Paprika, though!

Franco Macabro said...

@Cherokee: Kon was a unique filmmaker, he explored dream logic and the surreal, which are some of my favorite themes in films. Aside from that his films are beutifully animated.

I did read about his work on Patlabor 2 and Paranoia Agent, I will definetly be checking it out. I read he also worked as an animator on some of Mamoru Oshii's films. I was sad to learn he passed away at such an early age. I mean he was only 47.

I will be reviewing more of his films in the coming days, so be on the look out for that! Next up for me is Tokyo Godfathers!

I hope you and the rest of my readers are enjoying my Japanese themed month here at The Film Connoisseur. I know Im having a great time watching all these films.

Thanks for commenting Cherokee!

Jack L said...

Great review!

This one seems amazing! Looks like another film to add to my collection. I'm sure I'd enjoy it.

I've recently acquired Ghost In The Shell 1&2 as well, since your review convinced me, so I look forward to watching those!

Cherokee said...

Wow, that is definitely the first I heard about him working on Patlabour that makes me wary whether I will actually not like something that he has done.

Yeah, I think he did some work with Oshii. He also wrote a segment for Katsuhiro Otomo's Memories as well, which is amazing.

You should definitely check that out as well!

And I absolutely love Japanese cinema (most of my favourite films are Japanese), so I can't wait to see where you go with this series!

Franco Macabro said...

@JackL: Hope you enjoy them Jack!

@Cherokee: Memories is the film that I will be watching and reviewing this next week, Im curious to see how the result of joining all these great animators in one film. Glad your enjoying the Japanese themed month!

Thanks for commenting peeps!


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