Watching Paprika (2007-05-25)

I vividly remember an experience from one summer in college. I was living with a friend's parents and working a night shift. Early one afternoon I awakened and walked sleepily into their dining room for breakfast. In their dining room I looked up and noticed that the walls were now covered in colorful Arabic tapestries. In fact, the walls were wider than before. It looked like I was inside a Bedouin tent. I placed my hand on my chin in thought, and then shook my finger at the tapestries. "This is a dream!" I said. Shortly afterward I truly awakened.

This experience of false awakening may be the closest experience I've had to reality testing lucid dreaming. As I mentioned before, I like stories and movies in which it is difficult to distinguish appearance and reality. The first film with a dream theme I remember seeing was Dreamscape, but I liked Richard Linklater's rotoscoped Waking Life better. In fact, I recommend Before Sunrise, Waking Life, Before Sunset, and A Scanner Darkly by Richard Linklater. As I noted elsewhere, the first three films in this list have a lot of conversation. The first three films also have Ethan Hawke as Jesse and Julie Delpy as Celine, although they have only a cameo appearance in Waking Life. (The relationship between Jesse and Celine in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset is one of the most realistic romances I've seen in film, including the awkward silences and conversational corrections that happen when two people are getting to know one another. Equally interesting is the decade between the two movies, in both reality and the lives of the characters.) Both Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly address the differences between perception and reality, Waking Life through conversation and A Scanner Darkly through action.

A Scanner Darkly is also the latest I've seen in a similar series of movies influenced by Philip K. Dick short stories or novels--a series that includes my favorite Blade Runner as well as Total Recall, Abre Los Ojos and Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, and Paycheck. Of the associated stories--Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, We Can Remember It For You Wholesale, Ubik, Minority Report, Paycheck, and A Scanner Darkly--I remember reading all but Ubik.

False awakenings, lucid dreaming, difficulty distinguishing dreams and reality, animation (although not rotoscoping), and dreams driving reality--all these themes are present in Paprika as well. We saw this film--the second for us in SIFF 2007--at 21:30 at the Neptune Theatre with friends and what appeared to be anime fans. (I'm glad I got our tickets from Will Call before the printer broke!) While we enjoyed the film and the effects of dreaming, I was somewhat confused by multiple false awakenings and collective dreams.

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