Thirty-Day Movie Challenge: Day Seven

The plan at the moment is to do ten, break for some fiction/poetry/something else, do ten more, take another one of those breaks and then finish out the last ten in glorious (maybe? It’s not like I’m getting a ton of feedback on this little endeavor) fashion.

In case anyone was even a little curious.

**********

30 Day Movie Challenge:

Day Seven: Favorite Animated Feature
Paprika (2006)
Directed by: Satoshi Kon
Starring: Megami Hayashibara, Akio Otsuka, Toru Furuya

I can’t believe I waited four years to see this. Let’s just go ahead and blame all those Anime conventions I’ve been working at for the last six years. That makes absolutely no sense, when you realize I still love Anime and watch it whenever possible, but it just seems like fun to blame something without any real reason behind doing so.

The real reason is that some movies sit on that list of things I want to see for ages. It’s as simple as that. I know people in their forties who have been meaning to see The Godfather. Most of us are just never going to get to see every single movie that grabs our interest (Roger Ebert and Martin Scorsese might). We do the best we can, and we make time wherever possible. I love that it’s impossible to see everything I could ever want to see. That’s weirdly appealing to me, and it’s something I’ve mentioned before. It’s the same thing with music.

Unfortunately certain genres suffer from neglect on my part more than others. There’s a special place in my cold, black Canadian heart for animation, but I notice from time to time (Netflix is good at reminding me) that the list of animated films I’d like to check out is a pretty long one. I’ve seen plenty of Disney, Miyazaki, feature-length adaptations of various Anime series and other titles, but the list still seems to be considerable. It doesn’t bother me. The reminder that I’m missing out only hits me when I’m finally getting around to seeing something. I had that thought after finally seeing Pink Flamingos the other night, and I definitely had that realization after seeing Paprika late last year.


I might actually be willing to go to a stupid parade, if they were anything like this one.

I knew Satoshi Kon’s work from seeing Tokyo Godfathers, Perfect Blue and trailers for Paprika and Millennium Actress. His body of work was certainly more about quality than quantity. In the past year I’ve finally finished watching the films he directed in his lifetime, and all I can do is sadly wish he was still alive and directing today. Dreaming Machine is to be his last film, and it’s supposedly going to be released at some point this year. It’s a shame that has to be the case. The only consolation is the remarkable talent and imagination displayed in his few finished films. It’s almost intimidating as a writer to look at something as extraordinary as Paprika and realize how limitless the creativity of some can truly be. Of all his films Paprika is easily my favorite. It’s also the best animated film I’ve ever seen in my life. There’s room for that opinion to change, but it’s going to take something pretty spectacular. I can think of a dozen things I love about this movie. If I watch it again I’m sure I could come up with a dozen more.

The story is wonderful. It’s original, well-told and with a fantastic depth of attention to fully-realized, believable characters. I love the basic premise of a device that can record dreams running amok in reality. What I like even more is how much Kon and co-screenwriter Seishi Minakami get out of that premise. A great storyteller can do a few movies’ worth of ideas in a couple of hours or less. A hack job will either not explore the concept to its fullest potential or crush the great idea under trying to express so much that the film becomes bloated, confusing and dull. Kon and Minakami take a 1993 Japanese novel and use animation to blow the story wide open. Films in general demand that you trust where they’re going to try and take you. That can lead to any number of possibilities for what that means you’re going to get out of it. Of course, some movies ask more of you than others. Some demand a little more trust to keep your mind wide open, to simply settle in for the ride and wait until that ride has come to a complete stop before asking questions. Paprika asks for a whole lot of that trust. It’s just a little unreal how much ground this movie flies across a mere ninety-minute span. Taking the movie with arms wide open can leave you exhausted the way a four or five hour movie might. I’m honestly inclined to think that a lot of other attempts at this story would have yielded a film running three hours or longer and just not nailing it in the same way. A lot of themes, characters, ideas of social, political, moral and scientific importance are taken on. None of it is short-changed. Nothing overstays its welcome. This only sounds a lot more overcrowded than it actually is. If anything you’ll get to the end wishing there was a little bit more.

Okie dokie.

It’s a gorgeous world to visit. The animation has to be able to keep up with furious pace of the plot, while also doing justice to a magnificent voice-acting cast. Paprika strikes me as so beautiful that I could probably watch it quite easily without sound. It’s a firm reminder of what animation can do that live-action will never be able to duplicate with all the bells and whistles of formidable technology (time may prove me wrong on that, but I choose to hold onto that opinion for as long as possible) and its disposal. The backgrounds of Paprika alone seem like they would be a breathtaking place to get lost in. The countless character designs, larger details are a sight to behold, but at least some of the fun of the movie is in its details. It’s another aspect that demands repeat viewings and a guarantee that they will never feel like a chore. You will almost certainly want to come back to this world again. Catching the sights missed the first time will give way to that pleasure of a second (or third) viewing feeling a lot like the initial one. I can’t even imagine my own favorite visual moment. There’s too many to pick off the top of my head. Watching it again would only increase my options.

I really can’t think of a better example of the genre than this. That goes for Anime specifically (at least with feature films) and animation of all kinds in general. Paprika is a film of staggering visual beauty, wonderful characters and relentlessly good storytelling. It’s going to take many, many viewings to exhaust the potential of how much there is to see and absorb throughout. It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that we lost one of the good ones when Satoshi Kon passed away. He left behind some truly worthwhile films. I’m just selfish enough to wish there could have been a few more. That wouldn’t have been enough to satisfy me, no specific number ever could, but one of the best and most bittersweet things I’ve taken from Kon’s films is a sense of a longing. I wish I could see the world as he saw it. Since that’s impossible, I wish he was still around to give us some visual possibilities to work with.

Advertisements
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: