Ever seen Inception? Ever seen Paprika? Ever bitched about how Inception rips off Paprika? If you answered yes to all these questions then SHUT UP! Inception no more rips off Paprika than any of the other gazillion movies about going into dreams. Although I should concede that Chris Nolan did admit to Paprika being of influence to him. But being influenced by a Satoshi Kon film is pretty much the norm these days. Ever seen Black Swan? Ever seen Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue? Same fecking film. I kid, but that’s a closer comparison than Inception to Paprika. Oh yeah, I’m meant to be reviewing this film.
Paprika’s story is typically Japanese convoluted weirdness. In a nutshell a device called the DC Mini that allows people to record other peoples dreams has been stolen from the laboratory where it is undergoing testing. It appears a lot of people have had the chance to use this device including a therapist named Paprika who has been using it to analyze the dreams of her patients. After the DC Mini is stolen people begin having hallucinations whilst awake as they’re dreams begin merging with reality. This is possible thanks to the DC Mini’s incomplete status means it’s constantly linking together the dreams of anyone that has used it. Whoever has stolen the device is now implanting dangerous and cryptic dreams into the heads of other users. It’s up to the scientists who created the device, the woman of everyone’s dreams Paprika and a police detective who’s been a patient of Parika’s to solve the mystery behind the DC Mini’s theft and misuse.
To say Paprika can be a little hard to follow is an understatement. it whizzes along at a speedy pace and at times you’re required to make a few leaps in logic to accept what is going on. But this is kind of part of the beauty of the film. The leaps in logic are almost dreamlike. You have to accept that people can record your dreams, that you could use the internet to access a dream and that everyone can see dreams come to life in the real world. In the end what you get is a film that manages to capture the reality bending physics of dreams on a far more exciting and dynamic scale than the aforementioned Inception did.
Characters are an interesting and varied bunch which is pretty much the norm for Japanese animes. They may have as much of an obsession with archetypes as the Americans do but they know how to pick just the right mix to make a film interesting. Each of the characters has some sort of twist in their tale that helps make them that little bit more interesting though. There’s more to lead scientist Atsuko than we are first led to believe, although the strands to who she really is are there from the very beginning, and little time is wasted on confirming your suspicions. Tokita, a giant of a genius who actually invented the DC Mini, is your typical child in a mans body but he’s also endearing and easy to feel empathy for when his jovial outlook on the world get’s shattered. The police dective Konakawa is another interesting character. His very film like dreams are being studied by Paprika and he provides and opportunity for Satoshi Kon to pay homage to many of the films he grew up with. There’s references to Tarzan, James Bond and even Roman Holiday here. Later Parika goes surfing on a cloud with a costume straight out of Monkey.
Satoshi Kon had a deep rooted interest in dreams and reality. It’s a thread that runs through 3 of his 4 completed films. His final work before his death just over a year ago also appeared to be based on the same theme. That theme is no more strongly on display than it is in Paprika though. The whole film is put together like a dream and it contains some of the most extravagant imagery and animation ever put to celluloid. Every single frame of the dream parade running through the minds of the films victims is a visual treat. There is just no live action film anywhere that comes close to matching the imagination on display here. There’s marching frogs, dolls and even giant wooden Japanese arches. These parade scenes are accompanied by some beautifully unique music too.
The music is definitely worth a mention here too. Apparently it was the first film to feature a Vocaloid being used on the soundtrack. Whatever one of them is. According to Wikipedia it’s a computer program that turns typed words into melody and lyrics. That would explain why the music sounds so unique. There really is no soundtrack quite like it and it’s painfully hard to describe. Let’s say it’s an eclectic fusion of traditional Japanese scoring with electronic weirdness and more uses of the word eclectic. What do you expect from me. I’m not the musics critic.
The care and attention to detail and the sheer beauty of the film is apparent on every frame of Paprika. I’d easily place it amongst the greatest animated films of all time along with the likes of Ghost in the Shell, Akira and My Neighbour Totoro. It’s a shame that Satoshi Kon passed away last year because his influence, after just 4 films, was already permeating into western cinema. I have no doubt he would have eventually produced something no-one would be able to ignore. A film that would have grabbed the worlds attention in much the same way as say Spirited Away did. I’m not going to pretend this film is for everyone because some people just plain don’t like anime, films with subtitles or films that are good. Those people are missing out. Also, why can’t you read subtitles and watch a film? it’s not tricky. You read words all day everyday. If you have no problems with foreign, subtitled films then grab yourself a copy of Paprika and give yourself a pat on the back for not being a dribbling moron.