Tuesday, May 22, 2007

A hint of Paprika

I dozed off during Paprika, which Sony Pictures Classics opens May 25. Sound asleep. Not for long, but I think enough to enhance the experience of seeing the latest anime from Japan's Satoshi Kon. How can that be?

Based on this synopsis from Dave Kehr at The New York Times, which ran in last Sunday's edition, you'd think cat-napping would be an impossibility. The film is about a female "dream detective," whose investigative handle is "Paprika." She pops in and out of the consciousness of her client, a hard-bitten dick in the waking world plagued by nightmares in the sleeping one. A lot of colorful stuff happens when the machine that controls and monitors the dream detecting is stolen. To wit: "A sofa, a refrigerator, a microwave oven and a vacuum cleaner dance and twist their way down a confetti-covered street. Right behind them come the frogs playing trumpets; a group of tipsy raccoons, clutching bottles of sake; and a band of friendly cats, raising their paws in greeting. But the scene becomes wilder and stranger, and the mood shifts to something more sinister. Along come robots, anatomical models, masked demons, a swaggering samurai, the Venus de Milo and Godzilla. That seems to be the popular culture contingent; behind them, bouncing along with everyone else, are several religious and political figures: the Virgin Mary, Buddha, the Statue of Liberty, not to mention the red gates ("torii") that normally guard Shinto shrines."

Couldn't have said it better myself. And I did see all this. It parade of it stomps across the screen a few times during the picture. I think for most viewers this mad spectacle will open up the cerebellum, but mine gets tired out from too much ocular overload. Fatigue almost always sets in for me at CGI-filled pictures, where tons of fancy fantasy imagery hits our eyes with tsunami force, almost too fast for us to register. It's more strain than gain. I felt the Sandman visiting me during the tiresome Spider-Man 3, in more ways than one. But Paprika, while tiring, isn't tiresome. When I was under, my head resting against the back of my seat, I'm sure I wasn't off in some netherworld of my mind's own choosing but a version of Kon's. Taking a little break from the action onscreen sharpened my senses for more when I awoke. It's almost like a subliminal effect.

I don't know much about anime, a vast genre that I feel hopeless to explore. I've seen some of the acknowledged classics, like Akira and Ghost in the Shell, but have never really related to the animation style or the dense, sci-fi tinged plots. It's not for me. (Hayao Miyazaki's films, like Howl's Moving Castle, which I do enjoy, are different, more fairy tale-like, than its brethren.) The febrile imagination behind Paprika, though, opens a few other avenues of exploration--its notion of movie love as an enraptured dream state is intriguing, and the ending, where a character is deposited in front of a theater showcasing Kon's other films, is funny without being pompous. There's some weird, kind of sexually bent stuff involving outsized, devouring girls, which maybe I wish I hadn't been awake to witness, but this is also par for the course. These films do loop-the-loops where content is concerned.

Paprika is something to see, but given its accent on sleeping states resting through parts of it is an option. Bring a pillow, and your capacity to dream.

No comments: