The 2nd Dimension

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Viewing Journal: Paprika

Movie Overview
(Currently in theatres)

Overall= B+
Story = C+
Video = A+
Audio = B+

In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called PT has been invented. Through a device called the "DC Mini" it is able to act as a "dream detective" to enter into people's dreams and explore their unconscious thoughts. Before the government can pass a bill authorizing the use of such advanced psychiatric technology, one of the prototypes is stolen, sending the research facility into an uproar. In the wrong hands, the potential misuse of the device could be devastating, allowing the user to completely annihilate a dreamer's personality while they are asleep. Renowned scientist, Dr. Atsuko Chiba, enters the dream world under her exotic alter-ego, code name "PAPRIKA," in an attempt to discover who is behind the plot to undermine the new invention.

This movie seems to elicit some rather polarizing reviews. Those who love it tout it's lush visuals and entrancing dream-logic storyline. Those who hate it say that the plot is simply too hard to understand. And after having seen it myself, I can certainly say that both of those observations are true; but the fact that the story is hard to understand is kind of the whole point considering that it attempts to blur the lines between dreams and reality -- or more accurately, it tries to totally merge those two worlds into one. And the movie does a fantastic job of showing the illogic of dreams, but unfortunately it does so at the expense of its story and characters.

To start with, I have never seen dream-sequences presented quite so accurately in a movie as they were in Paprika. Most movies just seem to string a bunch of random crazy scenes together and call it a dream sequence. But in Paprika, while you still have wild crazy seemingly random visuals, it does an especially convincing and accurate job of showing how one dream flows into the next with an eerily natural fluidity. In fact, while watching those scenes, it called up to mind some of my own dreams and the way one thing will be taking place and then suddenly I'll be somewhere else altogether but it will all seem perfectly reasonable and natural at the time. That fluidity -- mixed with the incredibly dynamic and colorful visuals and light-hearted music -- made the dream sequences in Paprika especially fun to watch.

The down-side to this is that Satoshi Kon (the movie's director) seems to focus so much on presenting fluid visuals and convincing dream-logic that he sacrifices the movie's story and character development. The story itself is a pretty simplistic who-stole-the-dream-machine mystery. But even a simplistic plot isn't necessarily a bad thing as long as you fill it out with plenty of character development to give it some emotional depth. But Paprika just seems so bent on showing as many dream-sequences as possible that it forgets to develop the story and characters to the point where it would give those sequences some real cathartic impact.

The other point that I think the story missed on is that it didn't build anticipation at all. Paranoia Agent (another Satoshi Kon work) had a similar theme but did a better job of gradually building one odd event on top of another until the very end where it was an all out hallucination bonanza. In Paprika, the very first thing you see is a dream sequence, and the from then on the dream-logic never lets up. The problem with this is that, as the movie moves on, these scenes start to get old. So by the half-way point it seems like the movie has shown us all its tricks and without a strong story or characters to take over the visuals start to loose their charm.

But even with those criticisms, I still have to say that this is one of the most original and visually fun movies I have seen in the theatre in quite a while. So I still give it high marks and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys dream-logic-type movies.

No comments: