Paprika, 2006

Based on the futuristic novel by seminal science fiction author Yasutaka Tsutsui, Paprika is a bold, provocative, mind-bending, and fiercely intelligent exposition into the nature of terrorism, the demystification of the subconscious, and the psychology of fetishism and objectification. A rash of thefts involving a developmental prototype dreamcatcher device, code named DC Mini, the brainchild of an affable, if overindulgent prodigy named Dr. Tokita that is currently under testing at a Tokyo psychiatric research headed by a reserved and methodical scientist named Dr. Atsuko Chiba, sets the stage for the film’s delirious collision between reality and dreams, as Akiko enters the treacherous mindfield of the conjured alternate reality through her superhero, a literal “dream woman” alter ego named Paprika. Searching for the dream’s architect (and therefore, the thief), only to realize that the dreams have cross-pollinated, assimilated, and transformed with the dreams of other victims and perpetrators – as well as those originating from the subconscious of other investigating psychiatric detectives, including a real-life police inspector named Konakawa who initially sought the institute’s help in resolving his own anxiety over an unsolved homicide investigation – the team soon realizes that their quest is also a race against time as the rapidly fusing dreams spiral uncontrollably into a collective delusion that threatens to supplant the “real” reality with its fantastic and nightmarish incarnation. It is interesting to note that in manifesting the public’s collective delusion through the phantasmagoric assembly of assorted netsuke figurines, oversized transformers, porcelain greeting cats, wind-up toys, and synchronized bobbing dolls images conjured by the victims, Satoshi Kon presents an implicit correlation between psychological terrorism and the distractive diversion of innocence. Inevitably, it is this ephemeral quest for a return to lost innocence through the delusive panacea of regressive insularity that reveals the film’s especially incisive and relevant cautionary tale on the destructive repercussions of conformity, imposed ideals, and collective delusion.

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