I had previously only been aware of Japanese animation guru Satoshi Kon after seeing the brilliant Perfect Blue some years ago, and on hearing of his passing in 2010 from pancreatic cancer, I always promised myself I would seek out anything else he had made. Paprika, adapted from the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, follows the story of an experimental device that enables therapists to enter the dreams of their patients in order to help them. When the device is stolen, chaos erupts as reality and the world of the dream collide.
This is a startlingly visual experience, awash with colour and imagination. Kon’s movie assaults the senses and really blew my mind. It plays with your perception of what is real and what isn’t, much like he did in Perfect Blue, but this time its much more avant garde and limitless, showing a director at the top of his game. Sad it was to be his last feature. Yet Satoshi Kon has left the world on a glorious high note, delivering one of the most beautiful and imaginative animated movies I have ever seen. The detail and wonder on display here, along with utterly freaky music and sound, is often quite breath-taking (the reoccurring image of the parade, the gloriously weird theme tune etc).
Ok, it’s quite hard to follow with the kaleidoscopic style and imagery at times overwhelming, but conventional story structure is not the big selling point here, more the look and ideas, with many visual references including classic Japanese TV show ‘Monkey’, and Disney’s Pinocchio. Christopher Nolan has cited it as his inspiration for the similar Inception, and also in my opinion it has much in common with David Cronenberg’s Videodrome.
A unique, brain-melting event of a movie that I urge you to seek out immediately.
Japanese animation has had a bit of a renaissance lately with the popularity of films like Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke from the acclaimed Studio Ghibli. Yet lets not forget some of the films that came out of Japan before that studio’s admittedly deserved success, the more hard hitting likes of Akira, Ghost In The Shell and also this, one of the most striking & daring anime’s ever made.
This tells the story of pop idol Mima Kirigoe, who at the start of the film leaves her band to pursue a career in acting. Soon she gets a part in a seedy TV drama series, but its not long before an obsessive fan, unable to handle Mima’s change of image starts stalking her and soon the bodies are piling up. As Mima becomes more paranoid she begins to loose her grip on reality, and this is where the real fun starts, as the film plays with your perceptions of reality and dreams, creating an uneasy, unpredictable narrative that is both confusing and startlingly original. Then throw in murder set pieces, atmosphere and tension to rival the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and Dario Argento, and this is one of the most mature and sophisticated animated movies you are likely to see.
The animation by today’s standards is a rather basic, but it does its job admirably, and the art style throughout is excellent. The music is also first class from the immediately memorable tunes of the band ‘Cham’ in the movie and the heavy rock played during some of the more striking moments.
If you are into Japanese animation or just good thrillers, then this should be seen at your earliest opportunity.
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