Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Dreaming Movies: RIP Satoshi Kon (1963-2010)

Image from Ohayo/Good Morning (part of Ani*Kuri15) (Satoshi Kon, 2008) See the video embedded below

[...] Kon fully takes advantage of what makes animated films unique. [His film Paprika (2006)] is ultimately a dream about movies, as well as a movie about dreams. The way characters jump in and out of settings first made me think of Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr., perhaps the original virtual reality movie. One can also easily link Paprika to such films as David Cronenberg's eXistenZ. In another moment that may be a nod to Cronenberg, two of the characters jump into a television screen. Because this is a truly animated film, Kon creates a universe where a long office hallway and walls suddenly undulate with the solidity of a half-filled waterbed, characters in advertisements leap out into other billboards or out into the streets, and giant toy dolls threaten the planet.
It is the dense and detailed imagery that makes Paprika stand out. Frames are crowded with giant marching frogs, large appliances and living dolls. The goofy spirit of the film is close to the self-refererential work of the Fleischer Brothers' earlier work with Koko the Clown and Betty Boop. The story loops around itself like a mobius strip, with dreams and dreams within dreams.
Paprika, the character, dreams of a street where there are old fashion movie theaters, one of which shows Roman Holiday. Kon even has a character going to a multiplex that is showing nothing but Kon's previous features on each of the screens. Movies have informed Kon's films, so that Perfect Blue is an anime thriller that has reminders of Hitchcock, De Palma and Argento. Tokyo Godfathers, with both its plot about an abandoned baby and Christmas setting could well have been inspired by John Ford's Three Godfathers. While Kon has not cited specific films as influences on Paprika, he did agree with the observation that his new film was "like a collision of Hello Kitty and Philip K.Dick." [Peter Nellhaus, 'Aurora (Colorado) Asian Film Festival, Part 3', Coffee coffee and more coffee, June 3, 2007]

Film Studies For Free was very sad to hear of the untimely death at the age of 46 of Japanese  anime auteur Satoshi Kon. Paprika, the film Peter Nellhaus is referring to above, a complex and densely entertaining oneiric thriller, was one of FSFF's author's favourite animated films of recent years.

Kon directed his first film, Perfect Blue, in 1997, followed by Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers, Paprika, and the television series Paranoia Agent. A fifth film, The Dream Machine, is still in production at the time of his death.

Some great memorial linkage about Kon has been posted in the last few days by David Hudson. But there are not too many online scholarly studies of Kon's work yet, sadly, though FSFF is sure that will change. For now, then, here are some links to the very worthwhile resources and discussions that have been made freely accessible.

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