Tuesday, May 29, 2007

One of the most perplexing movie reviews I've seen lately is Devin Faraci's review of Paprika at CHUD.com. It's perplexing for how perplexed Faraci claims to be.

He makes the claim that most anime is "baffling in the extreme." I might agree that most anime isn't very good, but I don't quite get the "baffling" thing, as someone who watches a lot of anime. Faraci fails to cite any examples. I might grant him Evangelion, which I know a lot of people found confusing, though, if I may humbly submit, I did not. And maybe I'd grant him Lain, which really was essentially style over substance, though I don't see what's confusing about that. But what's even stranger about the review are the examples he cites of Paprika's supposed nonsense;

The movie has some scientists working on a dream machine – it allows you to see other people’s dreams and to enter them. One of the scientists has a dream superhero alter ego named Paprika – I am not kidding you when I say that I have no idea why this is, at all, but she begins the movie like this. I also don’t know what the purpose of having a dream superhero alter ego is, beyond whatever visual aspects it allows the filmmakers to play with.

I'm not sure what bothers Faraci here. That someone has a dream superhero alter ego? Strange, sure, but not really confusing. Is he questioning why someone would want to dream of being a superhero? The question is so inherently stupid I can't begin to think how to address it.

The movie is so dumb that the villain who stole the machine is the guy who owns the corporation that made it. There simply must have been an easier way for him to get his hands on this device, like walk (or roll, he’s a cripple and looks like Professor X) into the lab and say, ‘Hello, I own this company and sign your checks. That machine is, technically, my property. I’d like it, please.’

Kind of an amusingly worded criticism but, again, it doesn't hold much water. Certainly there are lots of reasons why one might conceivably steal from one's own company. It could be insurance fraud. Or it could be he means to commit a crime with the device and wants to throw investigators off his scent. There could be a hundred explanations, most of them in some way interesting and therefore certainly worthy of a story. Is it that Mr. Faraci expects animated movies to be aimed always at children? Is he usually drunk?

I've seen one other Satoshi Kon movie, Perfect Blue, which I quite like. Maybe Paprika's not as good, it's quite possible. But Mr. Faraci's review doesn't give me any idea one way or the other. He fails at reviewing.

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