Apr 8, 2011

[Movies] Paprika (2006)

Paprika (2006)By some strange irony, I have yet to read any of Philip K. Dick's stories despite all the high praise he's gotten and the significant impact he's had on popular fiction and entertainment, especially among science fiction circles. I have no excuses for this - it's just one of those that seems to have happened (or in this case NOT happened) and I've yet to take any immediate steps to rectify this. It's not an easy task to address given the ridiculously long queue of books that I still plan to read, which naturally continues to grow with every new published book.

I find this more and more ironic given my appreciation for the kinds of themes often explored in his works. I've had more than my fair share of authoritarian governments, metaphysical explorations and other such concepts in my various books, movies and TV shows of interest. At times it even seems as if I'm unintentionally following in his footsteps from a rather oblique perspective given a lot of the writers and movie makers that I follow end up being people who often cite him as a major influence of their work.

Strange coincidences indeed.

This movie is right up his alley and remains one of the last works of Japanese writer-director-animator Satoshi Kon, who is yet another individual who has often cited Philip K. Dick as one of the inspirations of his works. And given the head-trip that this movie turns out to be, I'm not at all surprised by this fact.

Paprika is the 2006 Japanese science fiction anime film that was based on a novel with the same name, as was written by Yasutaka Tsutsui. The movie was written and directed by Satoshi Kon and won the Best Feature Length Theatrical Anime Award at the 2007 Tokyo International Anime Fair.

Paprika (2006 film)Image via WikipediaSometime in the near future, mankind develops a new technology that allows the use of dreams as a psychotherapy treatment methodology. And in this dream world, we meet Paprika, who is actually the avatar alter-ego of Dr. Atsuko Chiba (Megumi Hayashibara / Cindy Robinson). She's been illegally using the DC-mini technology to help patients outside of the hospital with their issues given the technology is still being perfected. The movie begins with one such "session" with Detective Toshimi Konakawa (Akio Ōtsuka / Paul St. Peter) given a particularly traumatic recurring dream he's been having.

When it is discovered that three of the prototype DC-mini units have been stolen, Dr. Chiba and her associates fear the potential misuse of these devices. Without the necessary inhibitors in place, these prototype DC-minis can now be used to invade anyone's dreams and wreck whatever havoc they want once there. Thus Dr. Chiba with the help of her colleague, the brilliant yet terribly obese and socially-challenged Dr. Kōsaku Tokita (Tōru Furuya / Yuri Lowenthal) set out of find the culprit. And their only lead to begin with is another member of the team, Dr. Tokita's assistant Kei Himuro (Daisuke Sakaguchi / Brian Beacock), who is glimpsed in the invaded dream of Dr. Toratarō Shima (Katsunosuke Hori / David Lodge), who is the head of the department.

The concept behind this movie alone is pretty impressive - a true exploration of dreams and the kind of surrealism that such a dream world environment can provide. And Satoshi Kon clearly outdid himself here in terms of bringing that kind of an alternative reality to life with the use of brilliant colors, startling images and a heck of a lot more all tied together into one amazingly beautiful yet often disturbing masterpiece. Ugh, I know that was a long sentence, but the grandeur of this movie requires that kind of a lengthy description.

And with such great imagery already in mind, the wonderfully detailed animation style only helped this further along and every scene is certainly a sight to behold. One can't help but appreciate the amount of work that must have gone into every scene, especially given all the craziness that ensues as the dream world gets more and more out of control and thus more and more bizarre things start to happen. And it's not like they even had to rely on scarier, more nightmare-ish imagery to get the message across. In fact, the most innocent of items become disturbing and creepy given how they were brought to life in this stunning film.

Admittedly, it can be a bit much to handle all at once given how complex the story becomes. It's really a movie that deserves an above average amount of attention as characters are twisted into new forms, thrust into strange situations and all the while a mysterious mastermind remains at work in terms of manipulating events to achieve an unknown goal. Hence the initial Philip K. Dick introduction - in many ways this story plays right out his playbook. While I haven't read this books, at the very least I've seen a number of movie adaptations of said stories and that's given me a generally good feel for the kinds of stories he's created. And this is certainly a movie that could act as a homage to his unique brand of storytelling in many ways.

I don't really know what to say beyond this, really. I loved the movie from start to finish. Even when it seemed like the environment or the setting was becoming "familiar", the next scene would have you realized that your assumptions were wrong again, thus forever surpassing your expectations. A lot of the stunts and acrobatics that the protagonist Paprika does in the dream world are hard to stretch your mind around at times, but on the whole it all just makes "sense" given the kinds of freedoms one has in dreams.

Paprika is now one of my favorite anime films that I've ever seen and one that both anime and science fiction fans should make time to watch before they die. It gets a perfect 5 disturbing members of the dream parade out of a possible 5.

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