Paprika (2006) movie poster

(2006) dir. Satoshi Kon
viewed: 06/15/07 at the UA Stonestown Twin, San Francisco, CA

You know, it’s a funny thing.  I’ve lived in San Francisco for the better part of 17 years and have spent a fair amount of time down near Stonestown Galleria (a mall to everyone but hardcore locals) because of its proximity to San Francisco State.   And I’ve gone to movies with good regularity over the years, but I had never been to the UA Stonestown cinema.  I’d always heard that it wasn’t all that great.  But now, living down near it, I’ve been tempted frequently to go check it out when films are playing there.

Paprika wasn’t necessarily so high on my list, but the stars were thus aligned.  It’s a Japanese animated film, the latest from Satoshi Kon, whose previous three films have all gotten some buzz, Perfect Blue (1998), Millennium Actress (2001), and Tokyo Godfathers (2003), but I’ve never gotten around to any of them.  Paprika has actually been getting some pretty good reviews.

I have this weird thing with anime.  I like feature films and so much of anime is just low-budget televisions shows, far too much to filter through for me.  That said, I am a huge fan of Hayao Miyazaki, whose work totally transcends any monikers or categorization.  I just don’t think that much of what comes up through the distribution channels meets that quality.

Paprika, however, is quite good.  The narrative surrounds a device that allows people to record their dreams and allows others to enter their dreams.  When a couple of these prototype devices are stolen, suddenly a dream terrorist strikes and things rapidly spiral out of control with crazy dream imagery crashing through into one another.  Some of the images are quite striking and interesting and the film certainly has a lot going on beyond that narrative, comparing dream experience to cinema, and broaching some subjects along the lines of reality vs. dream, existence and all.

I guess this is the film’s weakness.  Its intellectual attempts stab out of its depth, and/or maybe are badly translated.   Character development isn’t too strong either.  All of the primary characters are pretty standard issue.  The story itself unfolds interestingly, keeping the pace up, and shining in sequences of visual spectacle.  Paprika is definitely above average, and Satoshi Kon is likely above average, too.  I’ll have to queue up some of his other films.

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