Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Dipping My Toes in Anime: Paprika and Millennium Actress
The anime month keeps on rolling, this week focusing on a couple of films by Satoshi Kon. I've already checked out Perfect Blue (which was not only the first anime I ever saw but also one of the awesomest), so I was looking to back that up with Paprika and Millennium Actress. Spirited Away and Akira will be coming up next week, probably a day late due to availability. Anyway, the week at hand...
I guess you could say I chose Paprika as part of my mini anime syllabus because when I said that Inception seemed original to me, I got a few hate-filled comments about how Paprika looked at dream space before it. To be honest, I didn't like Paprika more than Inception. In fact, the gap is so wide there's probably ten layers of dream space between them. It was a little more Strange Days than Inception to me, but that's just the way I saw it. Paprika is an imaginative little film, but sometimes it's imagination runs a little too far ahead of itself. Which doesn't make for the most clear watch, as I often found myself a little confused by the erratic shifts of action. That said, it's imagination is something that should be admired.
Basically, the large majority of the film takes part in a dream. There's a new gadget making the rounds called the 'DC Mini' (which did remind me of the SQUID device in Strange Days, which also recorded stuff, hence my comparison), which a therapist uses for her patients. However, when the thing gets out, the therapist tries everything in her power to not let anyone fall victim to some of the dangers that the DC Mini comes along with. That part of the story is quite interesting, but then the film kinda goes crazy with the dream space, with several scenes of large dolls parading through the street all the time. Everything whirred around in my head at about a thousand miles and hour, which made me a little light-headed. There was a lot to take in, but sometimes there was too much to take in. It just felt like one of those cases where the story looked better on the script than it did on film. However, on film, there were some great visuals that made Paprika something special. Who knows - I'll probably like it more on a second watch. But that movie just about blew up my brain, and I can't decide whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
The second of Kon's work I checked out on the weekend was another film focused on the blurred lines of fantasy and reality, but a lot easier to follow. Millennium Actress is based on the life of popular Japanese actress Setsuko Hara, who's named Chiyoko in the film. She's retired, which prompts a director to lure her out of hiding and shoot a documentary on her. Chiyoko tells the story of her life, which starts off with her meeting an artist who she helps escape from the military. She falls in love with him, and once he leaves, she embarks on a lifelong journey to find her lost love.
It sounds like a simple enough story, but it is complicated by the fact that it plays out like a 'film within a film'. Chiyoko often gets her reality mixed up with the films she performed in, which blurs the line between fantasy and reality. It was an interesting way of telling an otherwise rote story, adding this fantastical twist that is truly spell-binding. What I also loved was the fact that the director of the documentary, along with his DP, are found following Chiyoko's life and filming it, as if they were a part of it. If I were to ever become part of the film industry, and be somewhat good enough to make a film about, I want it to be made like this. Because I already mix my memories up with movies - so who knows what will happen if I make them?
What did you think of these movies? Are you all for Paprika? Or would you rather have a film like Millennium Actress be made about you?