Monday, May 14, 2012

I'd Love To Turn You On At the Movies #39 - Paprika (2006, dir. Satoshi Kon)

Before his untimely death in 2010 from cancer, Satoshi Kon was only the second name in Japanese animation, behind Hayao Miyazaki, who possessed a complete mastery of the genre and in telling original and complicated stories. Yet, unlike Miyazaki, Kon was an absolute artist in creating both stories and sophisticated animated images that were more for adults then they were for children. Also unlike Miyazaki, Kon spent most of his career unpopular in the United States but still leaving behind a small but masterful set of projects that showcased his growth and imagination. Paprika, an amazing science-fiction psychological thriller was his last film completed before his death and, ironically, the one that seemed to pull in all of the threads from his previous three films, Perfect Blue, Tokyo Godfathers, Millennium Actress and the stunning television series Paranoia Agent.
In the film we meet Paprika, a charming and clever young woman who is not who she seems. She guides Detective Konakawa through a bizarre, labyrinthine dreamscape and then emerges out of the dream as Dr. Chiba Atsuko. Dr. Atsuko is able, via a special device called the D.C. Mini, join patients in their dreams as Paprika. The project of Chiba’s mentors, she has developed a subconscious set of skills that allows her to portray Paprika in many forms and have complete control of whatever dream universe she finds herself in hacked into patient’s minds via the D.C. device. The device was developed for taking the next step in psychology and helping therapists find resolutions for intense traumas and actions that may be hidden in the minds of their patients. The work of the D.C. Mini has remained mostly secret while the doctors continue to experiment with its limits but when three of the prototype devices are stolen and some high level officials end up in sudden, catatonic states it is apparent that Chiba must join forces with her team and Detective Konakawa to find the thief in the dreams of these officials and bring back the D.C. Minis before the very fabric of dreams and reality is torn and both worlds collide into each other.
Aside from that thrilling plot the key to enjoying Paprika is to take in Satoshi Kon’s animation direction and bevy of eye candy that punctuates the film whenever the characters flip-flop between the worlds of reality and dreamscape. It’s as if Kon and his gifted animators at Madhouse Studios spent their whole lives studying the nuances of our dreams, the abruptness of reality and put it all epically on screen for you to see in this one project. Between vivid colors and surreal feelings during the film’s dream sequences, which cover 60% of the film, you may wonder why you’ve never wandered down Satoshi Kon’s path before.
It should be said that though this was Kon’s final film it is actually a gateway to moving through the rest of his small but perfect back catalogue of films and recognizing the brushstrokes of a master artist and storyteller who doesn’t want you to just use your imagination, he wants to create a whole new one for you too.
- Keith Garcia – Programming Manager – Denver Film Society

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