Saturday, June 28, 2008

Satoshi Kon at the Lincoln Center Film Society

Satoshi Kon smiling (he really likes to smile)

I had the privilege yesterday of attending a screening of Paprika yesterday followed by a Q&A session with the director himself, Satoshi Kon. Kon is probably my favorite person working in anime right now. He directed Paranoia Agent, my favorite anime series of the decade (if we are friends, I have probably tried getting you to watch it at some point). His work is a breath of fresh air, not least because he can avoid falling into the tired cliches that most of his peers do. In the span of 13 episodes, Kon did not only tackle themes that are virtually non-existent in mainstream anime (the fetishization of "cute" in Japan, the excesses of otaku culture, the contrast between Japan's post-war ideals and today's consumer driven culture, and lots else), but did so without being at all pedantic. And the visual presentation of his work, is of course, stunning.

Lil Slugger, seemingly the show's main antagonist

At one point, the host of the program asked Kon whether he had gone into directing Paranoia Agent knowing how it would end or if the ending was an unplanned, natural culmination of the creating process. To my great surprise, he admitted it to be the latter case, claiming that "if I knew the ending before I wrote it, the audience would probably know the ending too." He said he realized around the 11th episode or so that he only had two more episodes to tie everything together, and really struggled to think of a way out, almost wishing for Lil Slugger to be real and put him out of his misery (that was a real laugh out loud moment for those in the room who'd seen the series). I did not have any impression that the ending was forced or rushed, although it felt big. I'm getting a little carried away in talking about Paranoia Agent here, but only because it's that good. Please watch it if you have even a minimal interest in anime.

I was also highly impressed by Paprika, it's one of those movies you can watch multiple times and get more out of on each viewing. It's quite a mindfuck, from a narrative and especially a visual perspective, but it is by no means impossible to follow. Generally, the film examines the role of technology in blurring the line between dreams and reality, but of course there is more to it. Being the geek that I am, I got REALLY excited when I picked up on what must have been a slight nod to Dragonball Z; the character Paprika enters one of the dream worlds riding on a cloud with a red staff in hand (Goku and the Flying Nimbus, anyone?) I meant to ask Kon about it, but by the end of the movie I needed to pee so badly that any question I would've asked after would've probably formed into rambling nonsense.

If you are reading this and happen to be in New York until this Tuesday, I highly suggest you make your way over to Lincoln Center and catch the screening of one of his films and/or Paranoia Agent. I believe he'll be having another Q&A session tomorrow following the end of PA, and he's a very humorous, insightful fellow. Here's the link to the event:


Jeremy said...
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Jeremy said...

You know I was just reading my last comment but it was more of something like a shout. Here's what a comment should look like:

Satoshi Kon is an excellent director of anime feature films. I personally have been on a Miyazaki binge last week watching Howl's Moving castle, Nausicaa, and other films of his.

But I kind of see Kon as his anime director antitheses. Of course, I have not seen his feature films, but I get the sense from wikipedia articles and Paranoia Agent.

I went on sunday to see the series and for a number of reasons, I could only sit through the first half! Primarily it was because my attention span leaves something to be said, but also because of the deep themes. I needed time to contemplate the kind of inner questions the anime posed within me. Seriously! I missed the QA but I also had a lot oon my mind that day. The question I wanted to pose to Kon, and maybe you or another reader can answer me. What do you do when you are cornered by something so inescapable, so deep and terrorizing that you you see no way out!


Joshua said...

I still need to watch Paranoia Agent.