“Have we awoken from the dream?” That’s a question a character asks in Paprika, from Japanese filmmaker Satoshi Kon, and throughout the movie you’re never really sure of the answer. Kon’s films (Millennium Actress, Tokyo Godfathers) always seem to partly take place in a dream world, and Paprika does so literally. The movie centers on a stolen device known as the DC-Mini, which allows psychotherapists to enter a person’s dreams to determine the source of his or her neurosis. The DC-Mini is really just an excuse for Kon to indulge his visually imaginative whims, some of which are dazzling. The title character – an alter ego of sorts for researcher Dr. Atsuko Chiba – flits in and out of various dreams like a butterfly, and at one point she gets pinned down like a common specimen. When Paprika splits her skin, Chiba steps out.
Other inventions are less elegant, yet if you give in to Kon’s emphasis on imagery, the experience is as beautifully baffling as any that you’ll have wide awake.