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NYFF: Paprika

October 7th, 2006 (12:30 pm)

© 2006 D. Gordon

Dir: Satoshi Kon

From Sony Pictures US

I admit it right now: I don't know much about Japanese anime, and certainly hadn't seen one in a theater. I've seen - and loved - a number of Japanese films; but quite a few, highbrow and low, have a certain... quirkiness to them. From what I've heard, that quirkiness gets magnified when the movie is animated. There's a moral to many Japanese movies – you only have to look at the "beware of nukes" message behind the original Godzilla to see that – and that's fine; but the cautionary tales is often wrapped up in some WTF moments (think about it: giant monster coming out of the muck of Tokyo Bay would've been pretty... different for 1954. And I'm not going to get into Mothra and the singing twins). So I went in to this one a little biased.

Paprika is an anime by Satoshi Kon. The main plot involves the DC Mini, an experimental device that enables psychiatrists to monitor patients' dreams, which has been stolen by persons unknown. That theft takes on sinister tones when researchers at the facility developing the device are "possessed" through it and start causing themselves serious injury. The research psychiatrists on the project have to track down the thief and get it back – but are soon caught up in a rogue dream gone out of control, while the thief gains more and more power.

Like I said, I'm not an anime expert; but if this is state-of-the-art, I'm going to have to track down more. The animation is incredible, the movements are almost natural, and there were several points where it was hard to tell – in both foreground and back – whether or not it was animation. It's a beautiful movie... and nothing in it ever existed in the real world.

The story itself, strange bits and all, was well developed, with generous amounts of suspense and tension - enough to more than hold your interest. You definitely wanted to find out where this story was going. Especially notable is the opening sequence: I'm not going to spoil it, but it moves you through several frenetic, incredible scene switches, disorienting you before you can get any sort of bearings, to introduce the power of what's about to unfold. What a head trip. And there's the almost avant-garde music underneath the action, which is nearly as powerful - and essential - as German techno is to Run Lola Run.

Overall – I like strange, offbeat movies, and I got into this enough to like it... although there's still a tinge of WTF in there.

One bummer, though: the radioclub.jp address which plays a role in the plot doesn't exist. Talk about your lost marketing opportunities. %^{