Paprika: Loopy Anime Reaches Into Your Head

Based on a serialized novel by Yasutaka Tsutsui, this loopy anime from director Satoshi Kon (Millennium Actress) isn't a movie that's meant to be understood so much as simply experienced—or maybe dreamed. Psychotherapist superheroine Paprika, aka Dr. Atsuko Chiba, learns that her laboratory's dream machine has gone missing. So she seeks the errant device, digitally jacking into her colleagues' dreams and discovering clues that include menacing geisha dolls and the recurring nightmare of a guilt-ridden police detective—who happens to hate movies. Paprika is a film in which, minute to minute, basically anything can happen; the narrative is almost completely unbound. But Kon wouldn't be his genre's supreme self-reflexivist if he didn't insist on revealing frames within the frame—which here include not just characters' dreams but movie and laptop screens, plus a Planet Hollywood–esque elevator that stops on floors devoted to Tarzan and James Bond. At once cinephobic and cinephilic, Kon's heady cure for blockbuster blues couldn't have come along at a better time.

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