Charles Petzold

Summer Movies: “Paprika”

June 21, 2007
Roscoe, N.Y.

We drove into the city yesterday, and while Deirdre was engaged in a meeting, I went to the Angelika to see Paprika, the new film from Satoshi Kon, the director of Perfect Blue, the extraordinary and moving Millennium Actress, and Tokyo Godfathers, which is now on my must-see list.

The title character Paprika is a psychotherapist of sorts who uses a device called the DC-Mini to share dreams with her patients. At the beginning of the film she is participating in the dreams of a police detective who is trying to solve a murder.

Paprika is also the alter-ego of sorts of Dr. Chiba, the co-developer of the DC-Mini. Dr. Chiba soon discovers that several of the devices have been stolen, and that the "terrorists" who have stolen them are now projecting themselves into other people's dreams, and that the detritus of these dreams has been assembled into a grotesque parade of furniture, appliances, and dolls of all sorts.

I am probably making the plot sound more linear and rational than it actually is. Paprika is one of the trippiest movies I've ever seen — an exhilerating voyage through the borderline between "real life" and dreams, but also encompassing movies, television, and a virtual reality site on the internet, with a plot that is paced faster than you can figure it out.

I was reminded of several other movies while watching Paprika: David Cronenberg's Videodrome and Existenz were evident influences, but at times the movie also seem slyly reminiscent of Brainstorm, The Cell, and Nightmare on Elm Street. Yet at the same time it is thoroughly original, and I'm already looking forward to the next opportunity I can see it.

Paprika also answers the age-old question: If you dive into the television set during a live broadcast, where do you emerge? Why, from the lens of the camera shooting the scene, of course!