Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Movie Appraisal: Paprika (パプリカ) (2006)

I saw Paprika recently and wanted to give out a review of it.

And then things got weird.

So, this movie... this movie... I really liked it a ton, entirely reminiscent of Inception (although obviously this movie was made first and Inception certainly seems as if it took elements from this movie as well) and some of Miyazaki's films too. I don't know a lot of anime films, so I would not call myself any sort of expert on these things. Hell, animated films in general are really not my thing... although that hasn't stopped my girlfriend from going and making me watch cutesy animated movies rather than the horror I so want to watch.

*sigh* All of that being said, and as much as I complain, this is a really incredibly complex and interesting movie. It's also really strange. It took me so long to understand even what was going on. The film moved so much faster than my brain could process. At ninety minutes it's not a very long film either, but it has a ton of information to give it.

The plot of the film is eerily reminiscent of Inception. There are dream terrorists and a device (called a DC Mini) used to get inside other people's dreams. It's all about dreams, folks! And it works well. I have to say that certain characters worked really well with my personal favorite being the obese Doctor Kōsaku Tokita, the inventor of the device and, strangely, the male love interest. I have to say that I loved how that was handled. It was cute and worked well. Paprika herself is so incredibly confusing, some kind of alter ego of the female lead character Doctor Atsuko Chiba. There's also a detective who seems to have the strangest dream of all and a few other characters besides. All in all the cast is well put together, each character different, distinct, and well-handled from beginning to end.

The plot though... well, it's labyrinthine to say the very least. It involves a malignant dream affecting regular people's dreams. And then it starts getting weird with... uh... eventually dreams and reality merging together. There's a weird piece of the plot involving the chairman of the company who happens to be the root of the malignant dream, but in all honesty I found that piece of the plot so confusing and nonsensical that I just put it up there with the film being anime. Maybe it made sense, but I was paying attention and I have no idea why some godlike root creature has created a malignant dream to take over reality or something. It seemed really contrived in all honesty and a bit of a cop-out. I was reminded incredibly heavily of Princess Mononoke at the final confrontation between the female lead and the Chairman. That's not exactly a compliment coming from me as I did not like the end of Princess Mononoke.

That being said, yes there are some weaker negative aspects of the movie, but they are often overshadowed by the more positive sides of the movie with the characters and the dream elements. I thought those items within the film worked incredibly well. One scene that worked amazingly well was when a character who seemed to be good and then was found out to be working for the Chairman, Doctor Morio Osanai, who basically sexually molests Paprika within the dream world and then tears her away to reveal her alternate persona underneath. There is something incredibly visceral about that scene. It was difficult to watch and incredibly effective at showing the weight of what was happening. Even with the confusing plot, the scene was incredibly well done. Hell, when the detective enters the dream to save Chiba, I was on the edge of my seat, really not knowing what would happen next. I had never expected such dark things to come out of what, in my mind, is essentially a children's movie. (I suppose I didn't quite know that this movie wasn't exactly a children's movie when I saw it. I wasn't expecting the nudity, the blood, and the darkness within.)

In general the movie works quite well as long as the plot isn't looked at too closely. The music and the voice acting is incredible with the music being incredibly strange, and that one song, the song of the malignant dream, being a personal favorite song of mine even compared to other movies. The creepy doll that keeps showing up really adds tension to the movie as well. It keeps reappearing in scenes, eventually becoming a major antagonist on its own.

So, yeah, I liked this movie and I recommend it. It's short and really fun to watch even if the plot is kind of all over the place and half the time I had no idea who the characters were or what their motivations were or anything. I get the feeling that rewatching the movie would allow me to have a deeper understanding of what it is about. And it's a plus that I'm even considering rewatching it.

1 comment:

  1. This is one of my favorite animated films of all time and I think you did it justice. It definitely improves on repeated viewings. If you're interested this movie is based on a book which a couple years ago got a translation that is really great except that they translate swears really weirdly lol.