Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Paprika (2006)

Paprika (Satoshi Kon, 2006)

From the realist-humanist comedy of Tokyo Godfathers (2003), anime director Satoshi Kon returns to the subject of weird, of the thin penetratable line that divides reality and dreams, which he explored previously. This time, Kon invades the world's collective nightmare with images that are found in the ordinary, the exotic, and the downright disturbing. Refrigerators containing boomboxes, japanese dolls and musical bands composed of frogs, freaks and creepy monsters --- these are the denizens of Kon's nightmarish dreamworld. Of course, at the center of everything is sprite-ish heroine Paprika who hops from one dream to another to cure the psychologically bothered.

Such is made possible by an invention called the DC-Mini (eerily sounds like the mp3 players being produced by Macintosh, which fascinatingly has similar attributes to the film's dream-sharing implement). Some DC-Mini's, which are still in its initial stages, have been stolen by so-called terrorists. The effects of the theft are tremendous; men are being trapped in a dream-state while still awake. This is caused by the inter-mixing of the dreams in the DC-Mini's master program, which collects all the dreams, supposedly for psychiatric uses.

Middle in the film, an interesting point is made --- that the internet is similar in aspects with the effects of the fictional DC-Mini. The allegations are actually disturbingly true. Through the internet's expansive reaches, ideas (which are basically as limitless as human dreams) are exchanged and molded into one massive and global phenomenon.

It's such a delicious concept --- sci-fi that only the Japanese can tell so perfectly without being drowned by insubstantial logic. To dig into the plot to uncover the glaring lapses in logic and the noticeable leaps in narrative consistency is obviously a disservice to the gargantuan "cool" that Kon serves us. Kon is a director that mixes the absurdism of Lynch with the freak-fetishism of Fellini, spiced up by traditional hentai kinkiness and gonzo science fiction (the same way he took a plot in Tokyo Godfathers that is essentially John Ford, and mixed it with the optimism and sentimentality of Capra, by way of something akin to the comic weirdness of neurotic Allen). Everything should be taken as they are; dream logic reigns supreme; and every scene engrosses and fascinates.

Is Paprika merely that, a delectable confection for the color-starved eyes and the realism-confined mind? Not exactly. There's sound philosophy underneath the gorgeous pandemonium. Pop-culture icon Paprika, described as everybody's dreamgirl, is in reality, a black haired scientist who dons black hair and clinically white lab gowns as opposed to Paprika's striking orange hair and mini-outfits. It is that glaring duality of humanity that becomes the root of the film's conflict --- of the insufficiency of the real world as compared to the boundless possibilities of human dreams; multiply those individual dreams by a thousand and the result are powers of god-like magnitude.

It is such corrupting effects of the limitless possibilities of human dreams that is juxtaposed with the same dreams' curative powers. Dreaming, in Kon's work, is a tool that perverses and mutates humanity the same way as it allows humanity to identify itself. It is that downplay of dualities that resonates as the film's thematic core. Can such dual natures co-exist in the realist frame; can reality allow the penetration of dream logic; can the limitless nature of dream invade the grim, dim, and gloomy inconveniences of real life? By film's end, it seems like Kon is suggesting that it may --- a romantic revelation ends with what feels like a dreamy fairy tale ending; and the film's troubled cop reunites with his cinematic passion.

It is for that reason why I prefer Kon to most of his anime peers (like Katsuhiro Otomo or Mamoru Oshii). Kon is more interested in the human aspect of science fiction (or everyday tales) rather than the obviously visceral or the subconsciously mind-boggling. His films are always rewarding despite the possibility that they might not always make perfect sense. Paprika offers that same kind of comfort --- that underneath the gratuitous excesses of Kon's wild imagination is a distinctly human heart, not mechanical or cartoonic.


jayclops said...

Hi Oggs. I just downloaded this movie the other day. What a thrill to have read your review. Looking forward to seeing this.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks jayclops,

Do watch it. It's absolutely fantastic. Do share your thoughts when you're done with it.

dodo dayao said...

Hi oggs.

You downloaded this? Or is there a DVD floating around?

I must watch this, Satoshi Kon is one of those few directors whose career I followed from Day One. You seen his other stuff? Paranoia Agent, Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue - - -the first and only (so far) Japanese giallo, IMHO? Brilliant stuff.

Oggs Cruz said...

Hi there Dodo,

My older brother downloaded it into my Zen. But since the film is being shared in the internet, I bet there's a dvd being sold somewhere in the city.

Do watch it, I was completely enthralled. I have DVDs (original, hehe..) of Millennium Actress and Perfect Blue lying somewhere in my house. I've seen Perfect Blue way way before I was into movies, but I remember being floored by it. Haven't had the chance to see Millennium Actress. I was amazed by Tokyo Godfathers. Paranoi Agent, I have to see... I agree, brilliant brilliant director.

Digital Buryong said...

hi oggs,

i'm overwhelmed with the number of film reviews that you can come up within a week. really impressive. and you write passionately with substance. i'm ashamed of myself being a film major with no output such as yours. cheers!


Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks Chard,

Cinema is my film school... or is that statement merely a defense mechanism since I chose to study law instead of film?

dodo dayao said...

Thanks oggs.

I'm torrenting it at the moment. Two hours away from completion.

Came that close to pre-ordering the French DVD they announced over Twitch until they re-announced that the English subs it supposedly had were non-existent. I'm buying this on DVD eventually. I'm a big Kon completist.

Oh, and if I may . . cinema is film school. Even Godard would agree. Hehe.

Digital Buryong said...

haha siguro nga. pero iba kasi yung passion mo sa pagsusulat. ewan ko. di ko yun kaya gawin kahit sobrang puno ako ng pagmamahal sa pelikula. at nagagawa nitong gawin akong sentimental tulad ng sinasabi ko ngaun. haha. balik ako.

Digital Buryong said...

Tama. Cinema is film school.

Oggs Cruz said...

Thanks dodo and chard,

I'd get this one too once it gets a DVD release. I think it's just being shown in the United States so there's a lot of time for me to save for this.

Anonymous said...

I hope you people downloading this movie paid for it. It is illegal to download without permission from the film holders.

All I can say is if you did it illegally, the FEDS are watching and I hope you all ready to pay the fine. OUCH!

Oggs Cruz said...

Will eventually purchase it, no worries.

But I won't go through the debates in p2p sharing, and will not advocate it. Fair use doctrine.

Anonymous said...

Thank you everyone. We're all good people. Lets support our film makers.

jayclops said...

Hi Oggs,

Finally saw it. Ang galing talaga, sobra. And yeah, I do get that when the scenes feels a bit Felliniesque or Lynchian. I also liked that 'redemption in cinema' thing as part of Konakawa's character. Am I right in assuming that 'the chairman' was also the one who made possible the merging of reality and dreams? Medyo hindi ako naka-follow dun.

Oggs Cruz said...

That's great jayclops,

I believe your interpretation is right. The chairman wanted to merge reality with dreams since he's such a weakling in real life while in his dreams, he's all-powerful.

Anonymous said...

hey oggs,

have you seen/reviewed Linklater's Scanner Darkly and Waking Life. I think those were good films too!


Oggs Cruz said...

Hi Ken,

I've seen Waking Life a few years back and I liked it a lot. Not very coherent, but it's quite something. I haven't seen A Scanner Darkly but will do so when I get a DVD or something....

DKL said...

I thought you'd like to know:

Satoshi Kon recently passed away.


Terrible loss.

Oggs Cruz said...

It's really very sad for an artist o young, so promising, to die so quickly. I hope Kon gets the recognition he deserves.

DKL said...

Yeah, I think what I'm most distraught about (aside from the fact that the anime industry has lost an amazing source of talent during the worst possible time in which the industry is kinda hovering around trying to grasp for creativity) is that his death happened so early in what would've likely been an interesting career in which he further polished his craft.

Like... he has left a nice legacy despite it only being 5 works (as director), but he didn't really get a chance to blossom even further...

I feel like he was robbed.

(in fact, I think that his fans have been robbed as well)

Anyway, I dunno...

I've been pretty down about this news all day; it cuts me pretty deep given that I was actually following him since around Perfect Blue first came out and never expected it to all end like this.