Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Director's Report Card: Satoshi Kon (2003-2006)

3. Tokyo Godfathers
“Tokyo Godfathers” is easily Kon at his most light-hearted and whimsical. It’s also one of his most cartoonish films. The character’s faces are very animated, more so then usual, and often exaggerated in order to emphasize emotion. It’s a bit of a break from Kon’s more realistic style and seems to correspond with the comical tone of the film.

The story is a character piece, revolving around three very different characters coming together over the care of a child. One is a worn out old drunk. The other is an over-the-hill drag queen. The last, a run away teenage girl. As the film goes on, we find out that each character has the same problem. Each one made a big mistake and now can’t go home and face their family.

One of the primary factors in the story is coincidence, to the point where that’s almost a determent. I get it, I understand why our gang encounters who they need to at just the right moment, but it can’t help but stick in my teeth. It’s a little too easy for them. Though, after it happens over and over again, you realize it’s not sloppy writing but intentional.

I really like the way the opening credits are written out on the building’s signs. The music, with the way it incorporates Christmas carols but in a new, different, way helps establish the off-beat, holiday mood. The animation is rich and full of details. The ending involves a big, high speed chase. That’s handled with humor but, at the same time, I feel like going that big maybe wasn’t the way to properly end this.

Anyway, it all wraps up a-okay in the end. I don’t have a lot to say about “Tokyo Godfathers.” It’s sweet, funny, and fairly minor, but still enjoyable and worth seeking out. [Grade: B]

4. Paprika
Definitely the most visually intense film I’ve seen this year, probably in a couple of years. All the freedom that animation allows a filmmaker to explore is completely taken advantage of and that’s something that’s rare in and of itself. Some of the images produced here are utterly fantastic and potentially unique. There are grotesque, absurd, hilarious even. “Paprika,” simply put, looks nothing like anything else out there right now and is probably the most important animated film in quite some time.

Other aspects fall a little bit short of the visual side of things. While I enjoyed everything, I’ll admit to not completely understanding the story and I feel the logical thread gets lost before the end. (Being all about dreams, the movie does, more or less, allow itself to stop making sense. But still…)

The characters are lovable and very well realized. I found the detective’s subplot to be really well-written and Atsuki and Takusa’s relationship is bittersweet and realistic. Satoshi Kon’s love of cinema really comes through here as many different homage are paid. The fine line between fantasy and reality and the perception therein, a theme first seen in “Perfect Blue,” is revisited here though explored on a far more in-depth level. “Paprika” is all sorts of crazy awesome, landmark not only for anime, but animation in general. [Grade: A]

I'd also highly recommend Kon's television series, "Paranoia Agent." It is every bit surreal and visually intense as his best film work. If you can compare most anime to American television in the early nineties in its reliance on easy audiences and formula, "Paranoia Agent" is like "Twin Peaks" in the way it breaks the mold and impresses. I might do a full review of the series in the future.

Satoshi Kon had all ready started work on a new film called "The Dream Machine," which, just based on the title alone, I can tell would've been an ideal project for him. Wither or not that film will be completed or released, I can't say.

As it is, Kon currently left a fantastic legacy behind with his small but potent body of work. He deserves to sit among the greats of the genre.

1 comment:

Lazarus Lupin said...

I like all of his works but I fear that he never had the spot on hit to his talents. To use a sports phrase he never quite stuck on the dismount. I knew it was in him though, something that could have eclipsed everything animated done before. Of course, now we'll never see that. We'll only have console ourselves with the great works he left behind. The one scene that always haunted me because it was like my perfect nightmare was in "Perfect Blue," when the budding actress was forced to stay still mid faux rape as the changed the lighting was horrifying to me on many levels. The claustrophobia, the humiliation, and worse that you are consenting to it. Definitely an incredible scene.

Lazarus Lupin
art and review