Thursday, 9 February 2012

Guesty's Cult/Arthouse Movie Club


Well here we all are this is cosy isn't it, first of all let me just say welcome, beinvenue, willkommen and bienvenidos. This being the inaugural blog I'd just like to say a big thank you to everyone who has already downloaded the first 2 episodes of the Last picture show podcasts and also to all those who have followed us on Twitter. With episode 3 recorded and currently being dissected in to manageable bite size nuggets of Film/Drivel/Rant/Geek gold I thought that like the mighty Shaking Stevens it's about time to rock and/or roll!!



Jean-Luc Godard once said, "Cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world" here @Last_Picture we just say "I'd buy that for a dollar!"

Now I completely understand that you can't please everyone all of time hey! different folks, different strokes n'ok but like the great QT I am a genre lover – everything from spaghetti western to samurai movie, QT once said in an interview "I write movies about mavericks, about people who break rules, and I don't like movies about people who are pulverised for being mavericks" I couldn't agree more. In this weekly blurb I’ll be setting out my favourite movies giving a big Chuck Norris thumbs up to the mavericks (and no that doesn't mean Tom Cruise in Top Gun).

So where do we start this deluded odyssey of cult/arthouse film?? Well with most movies you'd normally expect to start with the standard format of the age old hero's Journey....


The film that I'll be discussing today fits that mould but damn it Jim not as we know it! It was first recommended to me way, way back. Imagine a time long before anyone had heard that Sir Christopher of Nolan was writing a movie about a highly skilled thief given a final chance at redemption which involves executing his toughest job to date, that movie was as we all now know Inception (2010) . The film recommended to me by a trusted friend was called Paprika (2006) a Japanese animated science fiction film, based on Yasutaka Tsutsui's 1993 novel. The novel was about a female research psychologist involved in a project to develop a device that will permit therapists to help patients by entering their dreams.



To give you the basic premise of the film it's as follows; 3 scientists at the Foundation for Psychiatric Research fail to secure a device they've invented, the D.C. Mini, this allows people to record and watch their dreams. Along comes a thief who uses the device to enter people's minds, when awake, and distract them with their own dreams and those of others. Basic chaos ensues. The trio - Chiba, Tokita, and Shima - assisted by a police inspector and by a sprite named Paprika must try to identify the thief as they ward off the thief's attacks on their own psyches. Dreams, reality, and the movies merge, while characters question the limits of science and the wisdom of Big Brother.


Now I found Paprika to be as fascinating a watch as any anime movie out there, needless to say the dream sequences are exquisitely and vividly portrayed or to put it another way messed up!! I mean proper messed up more messed up than Gary Busey. The pace and soundtrack is as manic at times as any Japanese Panchinko Machine and dreams and reality often converge to confuse the characters and especially the viewer. Sound at all familiar?? Well you can draw your own conclusions but I’d say Sir Christopher of Nolan might be a big fan.......

With a deeply involving plot it will take a person with an analytical mind to hold it all together. If you follow the recurring images, then generally the mythology will make sense. A hell of a lot happens on the screen although I think that most people will be able to enjoy putting the puzzle pieces together. If you get easily annoyed by long drawn out exposition or "information dump" then this might not be for you. If you prefer the whole Disney genre of animation e.g. Toy Story 3D, Wall.E then please just for god’s sake avoid Paprika, it will just frustrate the hell out of you. If you crave more than a simple plot, then Paprika will definitely tick the box.

Never for a moment does Paprika feel clumsy or cluttered; I am still surprised at how so much story can be compacted into 90 minutes, without compromising on quality. If you’re not an anime fan then don't worry you'll still be entertained as the characters are totally lovable and the imagery is stunning. Don't just take my word on this, 82% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes gave the film positive reviews Paprika Review

Now I’m not going to give away everything as I wouldn't want to spoil any future converts but after 80 or so minutes everything culminates, in what can only be described as the weirdest closing battle sequence I have ever seen......

The last movie that messed with my mind this much was watched whilst slumped in a drunken stooper in a cinema tent at the Green Man Festival in the Brecon Beacons in 2009, the film hosted by http://www.7inch.org/news & https://twitter.com/#!/flatpack was Wizards (1977) now if you've never had the delight of watching this film drunk it's not very much different sober. Any film described as "an American animated post-apocalyptiscience fantasy film about the battle between two wizards, one representing the forces of magic and one representing the forces of industrial technology" is gonna ring alarm bells and would normally be the kind of concept dreamt up by an ex acid riddled hippy that had Utopian visions for the world in the 1960's only to have them dashed with the election of Nixon and the Vietnam war. Now be that as it may I'd still recommend this film as worth a viewing.


Obviously animation and especially Anime enjoys a niche following in the west and most people recognise its strength as a narrative mode. Releases by Studio Ghibli have enjoyed a certain amount of success globally as well as in the UK, along with the quality of films such as Cowboy Bebop and Afro Samurai but films like Paprika sometimes fall by the way side and with a lack of mainstream distribution it means that the UK Anime fan-base does get left wanting.

Now I know what you’re thinking Anime is nothing more than kids' Saturday morning entertainment. Well come on seriously?! As a medium I think that it deserves to be taken a bit more seriously than it currently is, as an art form it definitely has the potential for greater things and although currently overlooked and under valued as a sub-culture films like Paprika should really receive the recognition they deserve. Although this type of film is obviously not going to be as successful as Akira and break into the mainstream I say unto the wonderful and discerning listeners/readers of The Last Picture Show Podcast...

Like Anime or not, Paprika is NOT to be missed.

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