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Women of Dreams Are Busy These Days

November 28th, 2010 · 3 Comments

Logging in to Netflix Instant for a movie to watch is like being hungry and shown to a food replicator. It doesn’t solve my problem — it introduces one thousand new ones. Luckily, I can see which genres are rated higher in nutritional content, in this case, 4 or 4 ½ star ratings out of 5 stars. “Documentary” had a lot of those. So did “Anime & Animation”. In the month of November, I take another trip around the globe to sample recent animated feature films. Next stop: Tokyo, Japan.

Paprika (2006)
Directed by Satoshi Kon
Screenplay by Seishi Minakami & Satoshi Kon, based on the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui
Produced by Jungo Maruta, Masao Takiyama
90 minutes

While Christopher Nolan took nine years to crack his script for Inception, a detective thriller unshackled by the limitations of live action explored the dream world with far less gravity and much more verve. Written by Yasutaka Tsutsui, Paprika was first published as a serial in the Japanese edition of women’s magazine Marie Claire in 1991. With interest from several filmmakers over the years, it was animator Satoshi Kon who impressed the author most. Kon was already a fan of the novel and counting Tsutsui as an influence, had considered adapting Paprika as a follow-up to his critically acclaimed 1998 debut feature Perfect Blue. Kon was finishing his commitment to Madhouse Ltd for the 13-episode TV series Paranoia Agent in 2004 when he learned that the Tokyo based animation studio was searching for its next project. He pitched them Paprika.

With a budget and schedule roughly that of Kon’s third film Tokyo Godfathers ($2.7 million USD), Paprika was completed in time for the 2006 Venice Film Festival, where it was nominated for the Golden Lion. In a genre that usually takes either a compass pencil to map out or multiple viewings to get straight, Paprika is drawn with soft focus and a straight arrow, injecting soulful characterization and a narrative economy more congruent to an American cops ‘n robbers thriller than Japanese anime. Its dynamic protagonist — a psychotherapist who leads a double life as a “dream detective” — not only has the ability to leap into paintings or billboards within the dreams of her patients, but duels with her own doppelgänger, each unsure who is directing the other. Its fantasy sequences blow the hinges off anything seen in a live action movie: enigmatic and whimsical, like a dream.

Detective Kogawa Toshimi (Akio Ôtsuka) scans the crowd of a circus for a suspect but soon finds himself being chased through scenes from adventure, espionage and romantic comedy movies. Guiding the cinema loving cop through this territory is enigmatic 18-year-old Paprika (Megumi Hayashibara), a “dream detective” that his college pal Dr. Shima (Katsunosuke Hori) introduced Kogawa to for help with a recurring nightmare in which the cop investigates his own murder. In the waking world, Paprika is known as Dr. Chiba Atsuko (also Megumi Hayashibara), 29-year-old therapist at the Foundation For Psychiatric Research. Chiba’s colleague — an overweight genius named Dr. Tokita Kohsaku (Tôru Furuya) — has invented a device known as the DC Mini, which allows users to share dreams and can treat mental illness by redirecting bioelectric current through the brain.

When three DC Mini devices are stolen and Dr. Shima nearly kills himself when a dream is planted into his subconscious, the dream program is shut down by the Chairman (Toru Emori), who remains wary of technology being used to manipulate the sanctity of the mind. Assisted by able-bodied researcher Osanai Morio (Kôichi Yamadera), Chiba and Tokita track down a lab assistant believed responsible for the theft and attempted murder. The thief has the ability to jump into the dreams of anyone with prolonged exposure to the DC Mini, like Dr. Chiba. Soon, psychiatric patients and the public are endangered by a collective dream in which a fanciful “parade of everything under the sun” pulls dreamers into a malaise in which they are unable to recover. Dr. Chiba/Paprika enters the dream world to find a cure.

Rotten Tomatoes “Tomatometer” average among 10,055 users: 87% for Paprika

Metacritic “Metascore” average among leading critics: 81 for Paprika

What do you say?

Tags: Animation · Based on novel · Dreams and visions · Forensic evidence · Man vs. machine · Murder mystery · Psychoanalysis

3 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Nostra // Nov 28, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Saw this a couple of weeks ago and was stunned by it. Really an amazing movie, with both an excellent story and animation. I’ve given it a 10 on IMDB.

  • 2 Joe Valdez // Nov 28, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    Nostra: Thanks so much for visiting and logging a comment. In contrast to style overwhelming any glimmer of substance, I thought Paprika was really the best of both worlds. I’m not sure I’d put it shoulder to shoulder with La dolce vita and give it a “10”, but it’s a top notch animated film.

  • 3 Tamsin // Apr 2, 2012 at 11:59 am

    Paprika is a love story disguised as a sci-fi thriller. All through the investigation, Chiba is working hard to solve the mystery and keep Tokita in check that she doesn’t realise she has been in love with him the entire time.

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