Paprika ★★★½

Christopher Nolan wrote this line in Inception: "the subject can always trace the genesis of an idea.” And the likelihood that Christopher Nolan pulled pages from Paprika as his heaviest lifting dream ideas is pretty evident in the soup. From the focus on dream sharing technology to Ellen Page’s wardrobe to physics-defying hallways, significant dream-elevators, and having a Japanese businessman be the one to hire Leonardo DiCaprio and his team, among other things, either Nolan was influenced by Paprika or it’s the most remarkable case of cinematic chance in history.

BUT here's the thing... Inception is waking masturbation and Paprika actually operates with dream logic. It's spelled out in the first few minutes when Paprika says that REM sleep is similar to movies; initial REMs are akin to avant garde non-sensical cinema and then deep REM becomes feature length cohesive narrative. Is Paprika cohesive? No. It's recycled light REM. Continuous. And the moments that are doing the lifting of cohesive narrative are lengthy scenes of dialogue whose actual explanation would take a feature length film to show. This is a dream wherein REM changes frequently.

Things that I love: Paprika is a literal Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The cinematic nods as dream influences include Roman Holiday (the photo request during the "romantic" guitar smashing), The Collector butterfly/kept woman lair, The Shining bar and The Shining blood elevator, plus, perhaps, a Pulp Fiction square/The Girl Can't Help It explanation of a camera's eye-line and focus. There are probably more allusions to films because this feels very much like a De Palma animated movie of Total Recall of Cinema. But those are the ones that stood out to me.

Speaking of chance, I've had this movie for a bit but felt like today was the ideal time to watch it. You see, I rarely remember dreams. It feels like I never have them. I had quite an amazing dream this morning and I remember waking up being really excited to tell my girlfriend (who loves to talk about her dreams and who gets much more sleep than I do). The lite REM involved a strange business layout where a Target superstore was beneath a job that I once worked, even though the office was completely different and so were the people and the work that we did, I knew it was that job. I had received a letter that I needed to take a dose of medicine before having a vertebrae in my spine removed because it was starting to decay. There was an asterisk in the brochure that doing this procedure meant that I could no longer be eligible for space travel. I remember thinking that was a bummer but that I was probably never going to have the money to fly to space, so I decided I should. Also, I gave into peer pressure because my non co-worker co-workers also were going for the procedure (they reviewed video games and played them all day). The procedure was at a hospital but it was held on a roof. They gave numbing agents in pint glasses. A vertebrae was removed. And then there was an after party, like a small Comic-Con where actors from TV shows came to pitch their new shows while we continued to drink numbing agents. It was exclusive to our audience of non-space-traveling-and-missing-a-spinal-vertebrae club. Harrison Ford was there and I remember telling him a joke that he laughed at and we clinked numbing liquid glasses and drank. I don't recall the joke but it slayed him. When it came time for the TV presentation, I noticed that I recognized the main actress as a woman I haven't thought of for years whom I worked with at a restaurant in Knoxville, Tennessee. Because I never went home for Thanksgiving during my college years—because it cost so much to fly home—I often spent time at random and nice families where an adjacent friend politely asked me to join them (it's of note that I was at a Thanksgiving leftover dinner the night prior). I lost track of her because she moved to Salt Lake City soon after and she wasn't one of my best friends, but that Thanksgiving dinner was so warm and thoughtful. I recognized her in my dream. She wore an elegant dress and conducted her Comic-Con styled interview with her newborn child swaddled abreast her movie starlet dress. I enjoyed talking with her after her presentation and meeting her husband, a dashing man in a suit. I don't know if she was still eligible to travel to space, but they probably both were.

I couldn't wait to tell my girlfriend of this dream. I was so excited and tickled by it. But when I started describing it, it felt dumb and nothing made much sense. There was a feeling I had while in it that I couldn't replicate with something that made sense. And that's why Paprika is a pretty rad dream movie. Because that's exactly what it feels like. Something you want to tell your friends about, but you can't describe it correctly, and when you start to talk about it, it kinda sounds dumb. But, man, when you were in it, it was amazing and frustrating and amazing and...

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