Film review by: Witney Seibold



            Like in “Dreamscape,” there is a machine in “Paprika” which allows the user to walk about in the dreams of others. The problem with this dream machine is that it alters the brain of the user, breaking down their own distinctions between dreams and reality. A kind of delirious insanity breaks out among the testers. The machine is also somehow affecting the dream world in general, causing all dreams to merge into one wacky parade.

            Within the dream universe, helping people out of their insanities, and usually just helping people through any of their old personal traumas in general, is a mysterious cheerful superheroine/detective named Paprika.


            In the waking world, we meet Tokita (Tôru Furuya) a grossly obese manchild/savant who built the machine, his comatose partner Shima (Katsunosuke Hori) who is already lost in the machine, the wizened old professor who offers advice Osanai (Koichi Yamadera), and the wise, heroic, and beautiful psychotherapist Atsuko (Megumi Hayashibara). Atsuko just may actually be the alter-ego for Paprika, using her to help her patients, and have a little fun in the meantime. And she may have a more complex relationship with some of the other characters than we think. There’s also a connection to a traumatized old cop Kogawa (Akio Atsuka), whose dreams also become involved in a way.


            Sorry if that’s all vague, but the film follows a strange dream logic in its unfolding. There is a definite and solid real-world conspiracy for about the first half of “Paprika;” you can see what the dram machine is doing to the characters, and even when they hallucinate or follow the weird and wonderful images in their dream consciousnesses, we know where we stand. Then an increasingly bizarre and symbolic dreamworld battle takes over. We know the showdown must, inevitably be in the dreamworld, but as dreams start spilling over into reality, inevitable false awakenings occur with heightening frequency, and the images become more and more bizarre and story begins to make less and less sense. Eventually the dream symbolism becomes so thick, that perhaps they were intended not to be deciphered. And eventually, like in a dream, you sit there, letting the colorful nonsensical images wash past you, knowing that they are right, even though you can’t explain them.


            This disorientation, though, does not make for a bad filmgoing experience. In fact, the animation is so beautiful, the images so original and striking, the misplaced sense of dream dread so palpable, that you walk away feeling oddly satisfied and moved. You know who these people are through their dreams, not their actions. Director Satoshi Kon (of “Tokyo Godfathers” and “Perfect Blue”) has created something truly unique and beautiful with “Paprika:” a dreamworld superhero noir fantasy techno-thriller. When was the last time you saw a good one of those?


            The level of skill and imagination that goes into the average Japanese cartoon film is so vastly beyond that of an American one, that we seem like a churlish lot of computer savvy children in comparison. If you’re at all interested in animation, see “Paprika.”

Published in: on June 21, 2007 at 10:07 pm  Leave a Comment  

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