Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress auteur Satoshi Kon’s interest in the flimsy boundary between dreams and reality manifests itself once again in Paprika, a techno-organic fantasia best enjoyed without any preconceived demands for narrative lucidity. An animé filmmaker whose lushly fluid visuals glide, swagger and throttle about with amazing dexterity, Kon’s latest is an aesthetically breathtaking future-noir-via-philosophical-head-trip in which – thanks to a cortex-stimulating device called the DC Mini that records dreams on hard discs, and is stolen by a mysterious villain – a metropolis population’s subconscious thoughts are made real and then merged into a monstrous parade of malevolent sights. Comprised of ambulatory appliances, talking dolls, whirring toys, towering robots, staggering samurai suits of armor, and countless other incongruous items, the procession (accompanied by off-kilter upbeat music) may be the most singularly haunting image in Kon’s esteemed oeuvre, though there are plenty of other unsettling visions of man-machine symbiosis strewn throughout to help bolster the film’s perplexingly convoluted, socio-politically attuned plot. A tormented detective named Konakawa teams with scientist and psychotherapist Dr. Chiba to catch the fiend orchestrating the apocalyptic plot, with Konakawa’s teenage moviemaking past and Chiba’s relationship to her virtual-reality alter ego Paprika two of the film’s many components that speak to the discrepancies between the lives we lead and those we secretly pine for. But literal interpretations aren’t the way to approach Paprika, which becomes far more enthralling the more one abandons hope of logically interpreting the story’s coded mysteries and references, and simply surrenders to the awe-inspiring beauty of Kon’s images of flesh, metal and unhinged mental delusions.
(The 44th New York Film Festival)