Papurika (2006)


(director/writer: Satoshi Kon; screenwriter: from the novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui/Seishi Minakami; cinematographer: Michiya Katou; editor: Takeshi Seyama; music: Susumu Hirasawa; cast: Voices of Megumi Hayashibara (Dr. Atsuko Chiba/Paprika), Tôru Furuya (Tokita Kohsaku), Kôichi Yamadera (Osanai Morio), Katsunosuke Hori (Shima Tora-taroh), Toru Emori (Inui Sei-jiroh), Akio Ôtsuka (Detective Kogawa Toshimi), Daisuke Sakaguchi (Himuro Kei); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jungo Maruta/Masao Takiyama; Sony Pictures Classics; 2006-Japan-in Japanese with English subtitles)
“Manages to create a comfort zone for both Tarzan and Freud.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Japanese filmmaker Satoshi Kon (“Perfect Blue”/”Millennium Actress”/”Tokyo Godfathers”) explores the divide between truth and fiction in this entertaining, mind-boggling and somewhat subversive future-shock sci-fi anime feature, that manages to create a comfort zone for both Tarzan and Freud. It’s based on the futuristic novel by seminal science fiction author Yasutaka Tsutsui. It gives us a different slant on terrorism than the usual government induced one; it’s the kind that gets in your head and spreads through a collective unconscious (think Jung), and is ultimately more dangerous because it robs one of their humanity.

The sublime plot revolves around the theft of a cutting edge DC Mini machine, a device that allows one to enter another person’s dreams for therapy to uncover the source of their anxiety neurosis and records it on a hard drive. It was the brainchild of the affable, overeater prodigy named Dr. Tokita. The danger is that in the wrong hands it could cause serious damage to the individual and to the world. Soon after the theft, several of the researchers start showing signs of madness. To the rescue comes a beleaguered detective named Konakawa, clearly over his head, and he teams with research psychotherapist Dr. Atsuko Chiba, whose virtual reality alter-ego is a “dream” detective with the spicy code name of Paprika. The alter-ego rides through the mindscape that skirts reality and dreams, and targets the archetype of the dream, who in reality is the thief who stole the invention.

It’s imaginative, philosophical, trippy, and brightly envisioned, as the doors of perception are kept open so the new Paprika woman (a nod to Blake’s Glad Day nude figure) could emerge from the raising of consciousness. If you can believe, in this film, the villains fight to preserve the sanctity of dreams. The filmmaker relates psychological terrorism to the blindness of living an unaware life of one’s inner being. I think he is calling for a lost innocence to be resurrected through understanding one’s dreams so the world can get on a firm footing with all the technological changes that have left many in the dust and in addition those in the forefront of this scientific revolution have sometimes lost sight of where they’re at and where they’re going with all their new toys, while much of the public seems to have lost sight of what they already have. This take on the film might only be what I saw, or thought I saw, and not what the filmmaker was indeed conveying, it nevertheless is a lively, provocative and intelligent film–one worth biting into as one would a dream to see what you make of it, as it seems to be open-ended and like a dream subject to several interpretations.