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Satoshi Kon at Film Society of Lincoln Center

To memorialize the late Anime auteur Satoshi Kon (1963-2010), last week the Film Society of Lincoln Center put on a one-night retrospective featuring his first film, Perfect Blue (1998), and last (released) film Paprika (2006). The timing of something like this is never good per se, however, the two films exhibited on this night could not be more topical right now.

To memorialize the late Anime auteur Satoshi Kon (1963-2010), last week the Film Society of Lincoln Center put on a one-night retrospective featuring his first film, Perfect Blue (1998), and last (released) film Paprika (2006). The timing of something like this is never good per se, however, the two films exhibited on this night could not be more topical right now. These are not the Anime films you expect when you think of the genre. One is a highly stylized character study inside the horror genre, revolving around themes of doubles, the other, paranoia, celebrity and the disintegration of mind and body. The other is a character study of human beings coming to terms with love and loss, guilt and regret, within the blurred line between the conscious and subconscious, masquerading as a plot-based sci-fi film that blurs the lines between dreams and reality.

Those descriptions were not taken verbatim from my Black Swan and Inception reviews, but they could have been. Everything one likes about those two recent releases gracing just about every year-end top ten list coming out this season, one will enjoy in Kon’s work.

The filmmaking is just as good as it gets here. Each film has a style all its own that seems to have beaten both Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan to the punch. They may or may not have seen Kon’s work, but Perfect Blue does the Red Shoes-esque dance sequence shooting, and the spinning hallway sequence, as good as it was in Inception, is better (and five years ago) in Paprika. The only live-action film that comes to mind as a valid comparison to Kon’s “shooting style” and explosive kinetic energy is Shinya Tsukamoto’s Tetsuo: The Iron Man.

Kon’s storytelling is paced exquisitely, so that when both films explode into crazy David Lynch or Takashi Miike craziness in their third acts, we are prepared enough to buy it and want it, but still completely awestruck. Basically, the point of all of this is that even if you are not a fan of Anime or even animated films, you should check these out. There were some technical issues with the subtitling, and the English dubbing on the DVDs seems to get good reviews, so perhaps it’s not a bad idea to actually go with the dub, even though that’s normally sinful. Again though, FSLC delivers.

Here’s a previous retrospective.

 

 

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