Paprika (Papurika)

If you’ve seen and enjoyed Inception, you’ll probably like the film that inspired it in so many ways – Paprika, though obviously both movies tackle themes and ideas that have been well-explored in the past.

Paprika (Papurika)
2006

And while Paprika is an adaptation, I think you could almost call Inception the same thing, though between the two, one text adapts a novel and the other kinda adapts the aesthetic and some central concerns of Kon’s movie.

All the films directed by the late Satoshi Kon are superb, I reckon – and yep, I’m obviously a fan – and Paprika is no exception.

I tend to think that this one, a surreal psychological thriller, is maybe his peak as a director, even if Millenium Actress is perhaps more heartfelt and I personally enjoy Perfect Blue the most.

But as an adaption of the 1993 novel (a novel I did read but only after seeing the film), I found the movie to be a much more consistent work from top to bottom. I’m unfairly comparing the two mediums here, but sometimes surrealism works better in the visual.

Here’s a synopsis:

In the near future, a revolutionary new psychotherapy treatment called dream therapy has been invented. A device called the “DC Mini” allows the user to view people’s dreams.The head of the team working on this treatment, Doctor Atsuko Chiba, begins using the machine illegally to help psychiatric patients outside the research facility, using her alter-ego “Paprika”, a sentient persona that she assumes in the dream world.

Generally, the use and mis-use of the DC Minis are the crimes that the Doc (and my fav character, Detective Konakawa) must investigate. And because reality and dream is blended so often in the story, they certainly have a tough time of it – stumbling after uncertain clues and unclear adversaries.

But I was hooked for every moment, never quite sure what the characters would face next. And due to that uncertainty around reality, there was heaps of room to bring in something you’ll probably notice me mention more than once on the blog, Intertextuality.

Since Konakawa studied film-making, and his recurring dream relates to that, there are plenty of allusions to classic Hollywood cinema and other texts throughout the film. (And there’s a Monkey reference too!) but I it was also fun to see the art of cinema and film-making itself referenced too.

There’s more to Paprika than its allusions of course, from the themes of identity, obsession, love, memory and the fear of technology – it’s also equal parts creepy and touching (at times).

While you can expect a certain amount of classic anime tropes to appear here, just as many are subverted really well – especially via the supporting cast.

When compared to Perfect Blue (which most folks consider, probably rightly, as Kon’s masterpiece) I think Paprika is not so relentlessly dark. There are more than a few light moments during the film, especially thanks to Paprika herself, but also in part due to the surrealism, which can be equal parts comedic and disturbing.

In terms of a recommendation, I think the R rating (or ‘M’ if you’re in Australia) is still fitting even if they tend to change over the years, so Paprika is not one for the youngest of teens but should impress if you’re into psychological thrillers.

Now, I feel that I haven’t spoken too often about specifics for this review, but that’s quite on purpose – as I don’t want to spoil one of my fav movies too much!

4 Stars

12 thoughts on “Paprika (Papurika)

  1. Pingback: Millennium Actress (Sennen Joyū) | The Review Heap

  2. I saw that you liked my Paprika review and I saw that you reviewed the same movie. Kon’s final work is certainly great. I do agree that Perfect Blue was the better film, but Kon not trying is still better than what a lot of animators are capable of doing. I saw this movie not long after it came out in America and when I saw Inception in theaters, my jaw dropped seeing all those eerie similarities. Christopher Nolan really needs to own up to this. Good review nonetheless!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! I was meaning to go back and add a comment because your review reminded me of the creepy ‘butterfly’ scene that I missed here.

      (And when I compare ‘Paprika’ with ‘Perfect Blue’ I realise that I’ve actually seen this one more, which suggests I probably enjoy ‘Paprika’ a fair bit more than I do PB, even if the latter is probably a better film in most ways.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • I swear we must like most of the same anime. Hahaha! Yeah, that butterfly scene was terrifying. If you watch the Japanese version, it gets even more awkward when you realize it’s Spike Spiegel doing that to Faye Valentine.

        That’s quite fascinating in how you describe liking that anime. I saw PB and Paprika equally, so maybe I like them equally then? Maybe that’s not the case. However, I did see Paprika years before Perfect Blue though.

        Liked by 1 person

        • 😀 Great minds, right?

          Or maybe also we’re both a bit older than the typical anime fan as well? Feels like a director like Kon isn’t quite as as well known as he should be nowadays (in my opinion :D), and I wonder if that’s partly an age thing? Everything changes of course but I hope his work lasts.

          (And woah, Spike is Osani? I hadn’t realised!)

          Liked by 1 person

          • I guess so! Hahaha!

            I could see that being a potential case. I see some anibloggers coming up who mention that they are in their early 20s and they aren’t familiar with the 90s or 00s stuff especially with the artsier anime out there. I do agree that Kon isn’t as appreciated as much with the newer anime fans. I hope his work lasts, too.

            Yup, that was none other than Koichi Yamadera in a villainous role.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Me too, and I reckon it will. (And I hope I didn’t make being a younger fan sound like a bad thing – like, there’s certainly a lot of stuff from the 70s and 80s that I’m not that familiar with :D)

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sure thing, Ashley. I know you weren’t bashing younger fans. It’s not their fault that they don’t know about these kind of anime. Same here with 70s and 80s stuff. Over the past few years, I expanded my horizons by watching the original Toward the Terra movie, GoShogun: The Time Etranger (I haven’t seen the series yet), MADOX, or even watching Kimba for the first time was a trip and that came out in the 60s.

            Liked by 1 person

  3. I still have to see Toward the Terra actually, yeah. And sometimes finding the stuff is half the challenge, no matter a viewer’s age. Some stuff just isn’t availble anymore, whether it’s on disc or streaming. (Although, that’s parr of the fun for me, it’s like hunting for LPs I guess)

    Liked by 1 person

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