April 6, 2009

Justify My Netflix: Paprika

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

Paprika, 2006

Today's movie: Paprika, 2006 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix)

Why I added it to my queue: Because by fans of the genre this is considered yet another milestone in the history of anime/manga/Japanimation; and as regular readers know, this year I'm using Netflix's growing amount of streaming "instant movies" to finally get caught up on the anime canon myself, which until recently I knew almost nothing about at all. Because this was directed by Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress), who already has a reputation for doing utterly unique and bizarre projects far removed from the usual stereotypes of the genre, mindbending things clearly meant for grown-ups but not because they feature space-octopus rape or whatever. Because the instant version is about to expire soon at Netflix, so I wanted to watch it before that happened. (And by the way, Netflix, what's up with all the instant movies with expiration dates? If you go to all the trouble to digitize the movie in the first place, wouldn't you just want to...you know, permanently add it to the back library? Is this, what, a misguided attempt to create a false sense of scarcity for something that no one ever wanted in big numbers to begin with? I just don't get that at all.)

The reality: Yowza! Now that I've got a growing amount of anime projects under my viewing belt, I can see how this is very clearly a world apart from the usual stylings of the genre, a bizarre mix instead of Western and Eastern historical image styles that produces something jarringly unique and mesmerizing by the end. And I also understand why people call this for grown-ups only, but without it containing much of the ironically juvenile alien-sex and space-violence of the usual "grown-up anime" project; for proof, just watch for yourself this seemingly innocent, pop-culture-laced yet ultimately sinister and unsettling dreamworld parade (embedded above as well, for those who have Flash), especially when you add the ponderous Wagnerian score that the filmmakers did. (See, the movie is about a device in the future that can not only record dreams like a film, but lets doctors enter the dreams as avatars and affect them; that's where the ultra-anime-looking Paprika from the movie's title and poster comes from, in that it's the middle-aged main doctor's "Second Life"-style cartoonish avatar for dreamworld interruptions among patients. One of these devices is eventually stolen by a terrorist, who enters people's minds without their knowledge in an attempt to drive them to insanity and suicide; this unsettling parade of pop-culture objects I link to today is a recurring dream/nightmare of one of the characters being influenced by the terrorist throughout, at the moment he finally goes nuts and flings himself out a window.) A profound, existentially disturbing masterpiece, just the ticket for people curious about anime but who don't particularly care for babydoll teenage-girl action heroes, no-gravity alien sex, and copious amounts of blood.

If I had watched it when it first came out: It would've been less than three years ago; this is in fact Satoshi Kon's latest movie, an international cult hit that played at a whole lot of hipster American film festivals two years ago, cementing his reputation among the genre-blurring underground.

Strangest piece of trivia: Both the director and the novelist whose book this was based on play the voices of the two computerized bartenders seen at the main character's website in the film.

Worth your time? I am the all-seeing King Kong wondrous hurricane emperor of the universe! All hail the coming storm of blood chicken ping-pong black holes! Oops, I mean, yes!

Filed by Jason Pettus at 11:18 AM, April 6, 2009. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |