Friday, May 04, 2007

Paprika (Kon, 2006)

Every bit as disorienting as Inland Empire, David Lynch’s collision of fiction and reality, Paprika is an exhilarating experience that basically contains all that is good about Satoshi Kon’s previous projects and combines them into one potent feature. From Perfect Blue, we have a central heroine whose identity is fractured. From Millenium Actress, we have concrete reality merging with the reality of dreams and memories. And from Paranoia Agent, we have a sly social commentary about a society that has been driven insane by modernity.

After one viewing of this delightfully slippery film, I offer a plot synopsis at my own peril. But, basically, the situation is as follows. A group of psychotherapists has developed the DC Mini, a device which allows patients to capture their own dreams and view them later when they are awake. As the film begins, we enter into the midst of a recurring dream that a cop is having which involves chasing a mysterious figure down a hallway and being unable to prevent a murder. The dream is an abstraction of the case that he is currently working to solve. Problems arise when it is discovered that someone is using the technology to enter the dreams of all those who are hooked up to the device. By manipulating dreams, this ‘terrorist’ - as they call him - is able to eventually create delusion that impact reality. The dreams of different people begin to merge and build dangerous momentum. Soon, the barrier between dreams and reality disappears altogether, leading to extraordinary sequences where the background is constantly shifting and characters may enter paintings, films or television programs and instantly become a part of a whole new world.

Yes, there are explicit references made to the illusory world of cinema. Films, after all, are always some sort of dream – an imagined series of events that may aid us in understanding the events of our waking lives. However, the real profundity in Kon’s film is the way that he links our dream world to our online world. The internet, Kon suggests, is a place where many of our repressed desires may come to life. As in our dreams, we may take on different identities or we may indulge in unusual fantasies. We may be emboldened to say or do things that we might not otherwise allow to see the light of day. The key difference, of course, is that unlike our dreams, this online activity is shared and public. As the influence of the technology grows and people spend more and more time in their ‘second lives’, this collective fantasy must inevitably have real world consequences. Our dreams may not be ours alone, but rather open and available for others to invade and impact.

Paprika is a complex film, layering ideas upon ideas, all the while remaining capable of shifting directions at any given moment. However, it not a film that is unnecessarily frustrating or unfocused. Kon allows rest periods in between the extraordinary visual assaults for us to process what we are experiencing, and there is always a sense of forward momentum, even if sometimes we feel that we are barely able to keep up. Pressed into a ninety-minute feature, Kon is not able to indulge in the kind of digressions that made Paranoia Agent occasionally difficult to fully absorb. Paprika is Satoshi Kon meeting and exceeding our highest expectations and delivering his best work yet.



Anonymous D_Davis said...

Nice review. Sounds great. You really, really, really need to track down Mind Game. I have a feeling you will love it.

2:58 PM  

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