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“The happy and mundane world will vent their anger.”

Cinema is a boulevard of broken dreams. We know this.

The Internet is an ethereal asylum for the assembling and disassembling of avatars, the simulation of selves and dissimulation of others — we know this, too, or ought to.

Dreams, said Freud, are the royal road to the unconscious, which they may well be; but it’s winding, and long, and wake me up when we get there.

Satoshi Kon‘s final feature, PAPRIKA, conflates all three of these — cinema, Internet, dreams — and whips them into a frenzied fantasia that doesn’t explore the boundaries between dream and reality so much as it confounds them completely.

Whether you find this exasperating or exhilarating is largely a matter of sensibility, of course. Many people — non-Japanese people, anyway — consider anime to be a pretty inscrutable business even when it’s relatively straightforward. Among the big names in the field, Hayao Miyazaki has made the deepest inroads into popular American culture thanks to the combination of his gift for conveying childlike wonder with the considerable marketing and distribution support of Disney — but even he has probably spun his share of Anglo-parental heads with the sheer febrility of his imagination (e.g. SPIRITED AWAY (2011), say). But among serious anime fans — and/or fans of serious anime, and/or fans of REALLY WEIRD SHIT — certain filmmakers are revered (or at least admired) for pushing the form’s penchant for surreality into truly, deeply strange terrain, creating a kind of kaleidoscopic visual poetry in service of retinal massage and ontological disorientation. Mamoru Oshii’s awesomely abstruse ANGEL’S EGG (1985) remains the quintessence of this high-flown, pretension-prone tendency. Satoshi Kon, who apprenticed with Oshii, was its highest-profile exemplar until his untimely death of pancreatic cancer in 2010 at the age of 46.

Screening as part of the ongoing Reel Weird Brattle almost-midnight movie series (showtime is 11:30), PAPRIKA is, along with Kon’s first film, PERFECT BLUE (1996), among the most delirious and yet thought-provoking headfucks in the history of anime. Its premise — equal parts Philip K. Dick, BRAINSTORM (1983) and ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004), and definitely on the hoary side — involves a machine that allows its users to enter into and participate in the dreams of others. Sounds great, right? Unfortunately, one of the machine’s lead developers seems not only to have fallen so deeply into dreamland that he can’t get up, but he means to drag the entire waking world down into the oneiric muck with him! An enormous, ever-growing procession of demented dreamers lurches through the streets of Tokyo spouting maxims of beautifully arbitrary inanity, almost every one of which is great fun to pause and ponder over, viz. “The sign of good fortune! The ceiling fan brings a message releasing epithets!” or “God and Buddha will change religions. The happy and mundane world will vent their anger.”

So who or what is Paprika? Probably lots of things — but principally, for our purposes, she’s the dream-persona of a gifted psychological researcher (unless it’s the other way around), who, in concert with a few other good guys over whom we needn’t linger here, sets out to restore some sort of order before the royal road to the unconscious leads its reeling, rambling revelers right past the point of no return. She’s a sight for sore neurons, and so is her story. Drink up, dreamers; now is the time to return to the blue sky, if you can find it.

8/9 // 11:30pm
90 minutes
General Admission $10
Members/Students $8
Seniors $7
Children really ought to be in bed by now

Brattle Theatre
40 Brattle St.
Cambridge, MA

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