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Paprika

Based on a serialized novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, this loopy anime from director Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress) isn’t a movie that’s meant to be understood so much as simply experienced — or maybe dreamed. Here’s what I know for sure (and plotwise, it isn’t much): Our psychotherapist superheroine Paprika, a.k.a. Dr. Atsuko Chiba, learns that her laboratory’s dream machine, the DC-Mini, has gone missing. So she goes looking for the errant device, digitally jacking into her colleagues’ dreams and discovering clues that include menacing geisha dolls and the recurring nightmare of a guilt-ridden police detective — who happens to hate movies. Like the best work of Kon’s compatriots Mamoru Oshii (Ghost in the Shell) and Hayao Miyazaki (Spirited Away), Paprika is a film in which, minute to minute, basically anything can happen; the narrative is almost completely unbound. But Kon wouldn’t be his genre’s supreme self-reflexivist if he didn’t insist on revealing frames within the frame — which here include not just characters’ dreams, but movie and laptop screens, plus a Planet Hollywood–esque elevator that stops on floors devoted to Tarzan and James Bond. At once cinephobic and cinephilic, Kon’s heady cure for blockbuster blues couldn’t have come along at a better time. (Sunset 5; Playhouse 7)

—Rob Nelson


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