A mind fuck of the highest order!
Screenplay By: Satoshi Kon & Seishi Minakami
Directed By: Satoshi Kon
More than any other art style I regularly frequent, anime is the most willing to go for the bizarre. Papurika is another example of that, it’s not David Lynch bizarre, but it is highly surreal and tackles a most eccentric subject matter. The strange nature of Papurika is also it’s major deficiency. There isn’t much, if any, of a cognizant plot to be found in Papurika, but unlike say, Akira, that was far too overbearing in its attempt to present a theme instead of a coherent plot, Papurika doesn’t push any message or theme on you. Papurika is more about the experience and allowing the viewer to take whatever they feel away from said experience.
It is true that there is a lack of a plot that either makes much sense or matters in Papurika and that does knock the film down a few pegs. Fortunately, the visuals and the free interpretation of what is seen on screen makes up for most of the problems that arise with the lack of a plot. There are still issues with the motivations of characters, why certain events happen or why we should really care. Your mind may run wild with interpretations of the psychological territory being explored, but it takes a long time to connect with what is going on because of the lack of investment in any of the characters or issues.
Satoshi Kon came highly recommended to me, albeit not this film in particular, and while as stated above I had some issues with Papurika, it was still a fun watch. I like when movies make me think, and Papurika does that in spades. The subject of dreams is also fascinating, and while the topic of dreams merging with reality has been done before, it still remains interesting in Papurika. The lack of a plot leaves ample time to question what Kon is trying to say, what scene Y means in connection with scene X, etc.. I believe that a myriad of interpretations can be gleaned from any film, but with Papurika it lives and breathes with the art of interpretation. There isn’t a moment where it says, “This is what is happening, we will tell you what to think.” That type of free interpretation makes for a thoughtful experience and leaves Papurika as a film that deserves multiple viewings.
The reason that Kon was recommended to me was not only because of his reputation as a great filmmaker, but his animation style. I know to Kon fans I am stating the obvious, but Papurika was amazingly beautiful. It was layered, full of texture and depth in every moment and incredibly clean and crisp in its presentation. The depth of the animation helps with the interpretations I was talking about above. Kon seems to function much like my favorite director period, Hayao Miyazaki, in that he makes sure the animation doesn’t just add style to the film but also gives you more to ponder.
I didn’t love Papurika, but I did like it quite a bit. Based on what I have seen I do feel the need to explore Kon’s work further, and based on word of mouth alone I think I may enjoy his other works even more than Papurika. This is a film that seeks to make you think and it does succeed. It isn’t without flaws, but the positives do outweigh the negatives. Papurika isn’t a succinct film and I can’t give you a succinct reason for seeing it. I can tell you that it is a different experience and in cases that don’t involve a fellow inmate named Bubba, different is always welcome.