"Nurse and Soldiers" postcard from MIT's Asia Rising collection
I'm kind of an animation junkie, but only as an extension of my interest in all kinds of movies. What I'm trying to say is this: don't read too much into the fact that my first post about movies is about a feature-length anime. There are a few anime writer/directors who rise above the bog-standard robots-and-girls-with-cat-ears stuff - most people are familiar with Hayao Miyazaki at this point, but Satoshi Kon is another name people should get to know. Like Miyazaki, his anime features have a distinctive visual style, as well as a few prevailing themes that run through his work. He is very interested in the surreal aspects of modern Japan and the blurring of reality created by technology. I've never seen his first feature, Perfect Blue, but Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, and Paprika all deal with these issues to some degree, as does his excellent series Paranoia Agent.
Buy the DVD of Paprika at Amazon.
As you find with much anime, though, people are quick to discount any value in the story or theme. "It's all about the crazy visuals!" And that's true to some degree - the thing that will draw people to Paprika is its crazy dream sequences. The movie follows a group of scientists who have invented a device that records dreams and allows multiple dreamers to "network" for therapeutic purposes. One of the devices is stolen, though, and our hero Dr. Chiba (aka Paprika) has to track down the thief and determine his intentions in taking the device. The dream sequences are excellent, but I find myself drawn to the smaller details that are signatures of Kon's work. The movements of the individual characters, their postures, and facial expressions are among the best I've seen in anime. Like many surreal anime works, the ending is a little abrupt and lacking in explanation of what just happened, but that didn't detract too much from the overall experience for me. The film's excellent use of dream dynamics and dream logic, the quirky characters, and the fun references to other films (Roman Holiday?) made the movie more than worthwhile.
And here's a song by the Swiss beat band Les Sauterelles, which happens to be about a dream machine!
"Dream Machine" by the Sauterelles