Spicy Dream Visuals
Hard to imagine, but I hoped Paprika would be weirder and creepier than it actually was. Given its boundary-less territory of dreams run amok to explore, I expected much less coherence and much more eerie sensation. Still, it's satisfying enough that the animated movie delivers what it promises -- the dream-involved sequences are indeed surreal, as director Satoshi Kon exercises his visual mastery of that uniquely dreamscape phenomenon of sudden displacement and dislocation.
The story involves misuse of a stolen technology that allows therapists to enter a patient's dreams; in the wrong hands, it's apparently powerful enough to induce anyone to a dream state and potentially trap them within (or, as the case may be, to allow the dream to spill without). Enter one of the inventing team's scientists, Atsuko Chiba (voiced by Megumi Hayashibara), who enters dreams as her alter ego, the spry and sprightly Paprika, to play detective and find the criminal perpetrator; also involved is a real police detective with troubles of his own. Thematically, it tackles dreams, cinema, and the internet as conduits for repressed desires. The movie's a fantasia, to be sure, but its uniqueness may be relative to the amount of familiarity you have with anime in general. Weirdness is a given here, as is a lot of sci-fi/philosophical dialogue and exposition.
Not as sure a bet is the communication of a humanity in the characters -- to its credit, Paprika devotes much time to getting to know its protagonists, but I found their issues a little too easily reduced to familiar pop psychology. For this movie, it's better to sit back and enjoy the detail-rich visuals while appreciating the unfettered imagination at work in constructing them, as well as the apparent wild enthusiasm with which they were tackled. (Capsule review.)
(Released by Sony Pictures Classics and rated "R" for violent and sexual images.)
Review also posted at www.windowtothemovies.com.