Paprika ★★★★½

The June-ar Module

I conceded to a friend the other day that I would be quite happy for them to make days longer so that I can fit more stuff in (I really want to start Mario 64 again) as long as I didn't have to do more sleeping.

My initial suggestion was that they invent something so I don't have to sleep any more but, being the good pal that I am, I caved in to her demands because she loves her sleep. Because that's the kind of guy I am! However, I might have to retract this agreement because I know that bloody parade is going to end up in my dreams tonight and quite frankly I don't want it there!

It's strange that Paprika has stirred up memories of sleep problems I had about 20 years ago for a year or so because it's not really about sleeping, it's about dreams. Dreams were not something that were the root of a severe bout of hypnophobia that I still suffer from on occasion, usually on sleepless nights or when I know I absolutely have to get up for something important in the morning.

Yet it did. I think it's because Satoshi Kon did such a marvellous job here of showing the unpredictability of the human mind when asleep and dreaming. The main root of my issues were the loss of control of my mind when it came to a fear of sleeping or falling asleep - knowing that there was nothing I could do to stop it and knowing that I have no control over my mind when asleep was what petrified me most, and still does on the odd occasion. Only very rarely these days, thankfully.

Yet, it would be all too easy to criticise the imagery that Kon uses in Paprika as just random dream-based nonsense, but there's actually a real coherency to its incoherency. The recurrence of certain themes but in different locations and with some alterations is something that he captures brilliantly and is very familiar to me from my own dreams. While the base images are fairly nonsensical in themselves, he uses their recurrence not for repetition but for simple recognition.

With Paprika being a fairly complex film, it's absolutely integral that he has done this. It stops Paprika from being a visually startling mess. In that regard, it's fascinating how much it resembles Kon's fantastic Perfect Blue. Another film which has a basic plot that is quite simple yet is enhanced, complicated and improved by disturbing, inventive but pertinent imagery.

Right from its amazing opening title sequence, it's obviously a complete visual treat that is absolutely replete with imagination. I very, very rarely favour any film that is all style and no substance, yet I reckon if Paprika didn't have such a fulsome and inventive plotline, I might still have enjoyed it very much indeed - and the same could be said of Perfect Blue, actually. Its imagery just hit the right spot with my imagination.

The only very minor quibble I would have is that the last 10 minutes or so didn't quite provide the killer ending that I hoped for. A final 'battle' ends slightly anti-climatically (although still satisfactorily for the story as a whole, but I'm just extra fussy) but a clever ambiguous ending (I always like those) was the ideal way to end a film such as this.

Quite simply, Paprika is every bit the marvel that everyone told me it would be. I might have to take up coffee tonight, though.

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