Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Movie Review: PAPRIKA

Originally Released: 2006
Starring: Megumi Hayashibara, Katsunosuke Hori, Tōru Furuya
Directed by: Satoshi Kon
Based on: the novel of the same name by Yasutaka Tsutsui

Chiba is a psychologist and ice queen, but she's not a stone cold bitch—she's just sleep deprived. Every night she uses an experimental device called a DC Mini to traipse through other people's dreams as a manic pixie dream girl named Paprika. It's all in the name of therapy, of course, but unfortunately someone else at her corporation has also decided to misappropriate a few DC Minis. And unlike Chiba, they're not using their newfound abilities for good. Will Chiba (or Paprika) be able to restore the balance of dreams and reality?

chiba from movie paprika
Don't mess with me, bud.

I first heard about Paprika from Bridget at Portable Pieces of Thoughts. I was intrigued by the premise right from the start, mainly because I love animé and am always looking for good animé recommendations. But when Bridget described Paprika as making the movie Inception look like child's play, I knew I HAD to see it. I'm glad I did, because Paprika is an awesome movie—and it is a film, not a cartoon. I would not recommend parking your little kids in front of this one.

As Bridget said, Paprika has definite similarities to Inception: In both films, there are dreams within dreams within dreams, the characters are in danger of having a psychotic break between reality or even dying in the dream world, and people with DC Minis can implant ideas into someone's subconscious mind while they're dreaming. Yet for me, Paprika was more reminiscent of Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound. Just as in Spellbound, you have a beautiful but royally uptight psychiatrist with an awesome old guy mentor, who uses dreams to help solve a mystery. Whereas Inception was an epic journey hidden inside a caper plot, Paprika is a coming-of-age story framed in a suspense plot. With, obviously, crazy-ass dreams.

paprika gif
Not the bendy floors!

The execution of Paprika is flawless. Not only is the animation gorgeous and hallucinatory, but I've seen movies with human actors that convey emotions less eloquently and have less chemistry than these animated characters do! For example, almost as soon as Chiba and Osanai appear on screen together you KNOW he has a thing for her. How I don't even know. And the moment Konakawa, a detective Chiba is treating, meets Chiba IRL for the first time and realizes she's Paprika is priceless.

I also thought the use of art in Paprika was interesting. Normally one would expect filmmakers tackling the subject of dreams and the subconscious to reference surrealism in some way, like in Hitchcock's Spellbound. Paprika doesn't, at least not overtly, and I applaud them for it. Not only is surrealist art in movie dream sequences practically a cliché at this point, but that would be redundant considering the film animation as a whole is very surreal. Instead, the filmmakers give a nice shout-out to the symbolists, who helped inspire the surrealists.

oedipus and the sphinx paprika
Paprika and Osanai entering Gustave Moreau's Oedipus and the Sphinx.

Other things I loved about Paprika:

  • The soundtrack for this film is awesome. I immediately downloaded it.
  • Points for creepiest use of a doll EVER.
  • The fact that the film touches on the similarities between dreams and the internet and movies, and then LEAVES IT AT THAT. I wasn't repeatedly hit over the head with it.
  • The ending! It was so unusual and sweet and happy-making, not to mention the type of conclusion that Hollywood would NEVER, not in A HUNDRED MILLION YEARS have the balls to put out there.

So, yeah. I enjoyed this one and recommend it. If you're a Prime member, you can stream it on Amazon for free. Thanks to Bridget for letting me know about it!

chiba/paprika running
Rush out and see it!

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