Satoshi Kon’s PAPRIKA
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
As we walked out of the theater after seeing Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, I told Number One Son, “Now I know it’s possible to really film a Philip K. Dick novel!”
By that I don’t mean the rather literal interpretation provided by A Scanner Darkly — which I enjoyed immensely — but the “what is really real?” altered mind-state provided by a Dick novel such as Ubik. Paprika has that sense of reality distortion that Dick had mastered and which is very difficult to display cinematically.
And display things cinematically Satoshi Kon does in this movie, with a passion, detail, energy and imagination that is simultaneously dizzying and exhilarating. Sometimes there are so many concepts and objects competing for our attention that we feel we are falling down an endless phantasmagorical tunnel that just barely lets us stay in touch with a recognizable physical world. The visual excitement generated by this film is almost palpable — and it’s animated!
But there is a catch, and I believe the catch undermines what might otherwise have been a superbly satisfying movie. The story is rather prosaic and the character development is, at times, quite stereotypical. We’ve read about dream control before and the manner in which the story proceeds dwells less on profound issues than on the sorting out of a rather garden variety treachery-in-high-places story line. There’s none of the engaging character development of Millennium Actress nor the touching friendship of Tokyo Godfathers.
This is, at the end of the day, a cops and robbers film with Science Fiction overtones, and the absolutely dazzling visuals can’t hide that fact. In other words, there is more Perfect Blue here than I prefer. But I definitely intend to see this film again — there’s a lot to see.