Paprika is the final full-length film of the visionary director Satoshi Kon, who passed at the young age of 46. His previous movies like Perfect Blue and Millennium Actress captures the attention and imagination of his home country, but Paprika left a lasting impression that still seems to resonate with a wider audience than he ever reached before. This may partially be due to the emotional complexity and sometimes extremely dark themes of his other films, but even beyond that, Paprika is in a way a culmination and perfection of the visual style he spent so long working towards. Visually, Paprika is a masterpiece. It is brilliantly inventive and playful, doing things with the camera and with the actors that a live-action film never could, and using these things to establish a dream-like atmosphere that is perhaps as close to actual dreaming as I've ever seen in any movie. This film should be required viewing for anyone who believes in the camera's ability to transport an audience to other worlds, and anyone who lacks an understanding of the magic that animation can bring to a film when utilized by a master like Kon.
It didn't really hit me til the next night. I had gone to see Hereditary, but unfortunately my movie-going experience was less than perfect and that became the overriding narrative of the evening. I enjoyed the movie immensely, and while I was watching it I was extremely unnerved, but my thoughts didn't dwell too much on it. I got distracted. It wasn't until the next night that I lay in bed thinking about some of the brilliant imagery of the movie, that I really started to feel the fear creeping in. My chest tightened thinking about the things that happened in Hereditary, my pulse elevated, and suddenly I felt the incredible urge to look around my room to make sure I was the only one there. This movie didn't destroy me or make my brain explode like some claim, but it did leave me with something that no other horror movie has been able to do to me thus far: a lingering fear that extends past the day of. Maybe fear isn't the correct word, maybe dread, or maybe there just isn't a single word for the feelings I get when I think of this movie and of the many memorable scenes it includes. One thing is for sure though, in terms of imagery alone, Hereditary is memorable, and it's scary.
To steal from a podcast that I listen to, tone management is one of the most important jobs that a director has. Many first time directors seem to struggle for this, not quite accomplishing a consistent tone across their film, which can confuse audiences as to how they're supposed to be feeling. Tonal consistency is how Martin McDonagh movies can make you laugh, then have a heart-wrenching scene a few moments later and still remain effective. Both those emotions come from the same place, and it's important to keep such things in mind. Pearce here has not gone for anything quite as crazy as McDonagh's sometimes wild roller-coasters of emotion, but he has managed to achieve something that other inexperienced directors seem to not quite get, and that's the ability to toy with your audiences emotions without muddying the tone and themes of your film. Make no mistake, Beast is a movie that constantly pits your own expectations against you and fills you with doubt, confusion, and dread, but only in terms of the actual narrative. The core of this movie remains unflinching, and though it evolves over the course of the film (as it should), it remains solid in it's message and undeviating in it's central themes.
We live on the edge of an era defined by Artificial Intelligence. Day by day, AI is being further integrated into our lives, with advances being made to make it more useful, more lifelike, and more knowledgeable. We've known for a while that this would happen, that AI would one day take over our lives, but now we are closer than ever to this vision of the future that we've held for so long. Cyberpunk has for decades been a genre of speculative fiction that held sway with a select sub-culture of people, with works like Neuromancer or Blade Runner defining people's lives, inspiring both awe and fear as they collectively imagined what the future might hold. Ghost in the Shell is a key part of this genre, one whose influence can be found across all forms of media, and the way that we viewed the future of the internet for decades was filtered through the lens of this movie, whether you knew it or not. Obvious influence is drawn from Blade Runner which came before it, but in it's more direct and specific confrontation of the perils of widespread adoption of the internet and the advances in Artificial Intelligence, Ghost in the Shell set itself apart from everything else, becoming something more than just another piece of fiction drawing inspiration from Ridley's accidental cyberpunk masterpiece. Never once being afraid to seem impenetrable or pretentious, Ghost in the Shell draws the audience in with stunning visuals, frenetic action, and iconic characters, and leaves them with questions of existence, consciousness, and identity. These questions have always haunted our species in one way or another, but Ghost in the Shell asks them in ways that deal directly with mankind's adoption and dependence in technology, and now even more than when the film was first released, the answers to these questions have become both more important, and more amorphous.
Often before seeing a movie, I like to take a look at the runtime, just so I know what to expect. The runtime can really tell you quite a lot about what a movie wants to be. If you get something over 2 and a half hours, clearly it wants to be a sort of sprawling epic. If you get something that clocks in under 2 hours, generally it knows what story it wants to tell and feels no need to stretch things out. So when I took a look to see what Lynne Ramsey's You Were Never Really Here clocked in at, I was surprised to see 89 minutes as the listed run time. Under 90 minutes was not what I was expecting to see, and I wasn't sure exactly what information to draw from that. What kind of deeply moving, emotional story could be told in such a short amount of time? As it turns out, the short runtime is perhaps the biggest indicator of where the film's most obvious strengths lie. You Were Never Really Here is a perfectly crafted movie, that at all times knows exactly what it's doing and feels no need to do anything more. Not a single second of this tight, brutal thriller is wasted.