Paprika, the latest film by anime provocateur Satoshi Kon, the subject of a new biodocumentary Satoshi Kon: the illusionist
If Hideo Miyazaki used animation to create impossible worlds, then Satoshi Kon took the medium and pushed him to create the most real world possible: immediate, recognizable, damaging, demanding. Even his fantasies seemed real.
The big difference between the two boiled down to a reality. Miyazaki made films that Disney would distribute in the West. Kon has made films about mental collapse, identity, fame, stalkers, psychotherapy, the universal subconscious, insidious technology, and the border between dreams and reality. Through four feature films (the 1999 psycho-horror Perfect blue, the film history of 2003 Millennial actress, the heartwarming comedy of 2004 Tokyo Sponsors, and his swan song, the distortion of reality of 2007 Paprika) and a series (Paranoia Agent), he pushed the boundaries in a way that is more recognized now than at any time in his life.
Satoshi Kon: the illusionist follows his career from his first fame as a visceral enfant terrible of the manga industry to the timely director as a post-Akira wave of translated Japanese culture swept across Europe and America, until his tragic death in 2010. For anyone who wants to pretend that Black Swan snatch Perfect blue, Darren Aronofsky was one of the first talking heads to sing the praises of his friend and peer, while contemporaries of Kon’s early works note how much he took Akira creator Katsuhiro Otomo, both visually and narratively, but also from dozens of other influences, from Kurt Vonnegut to John Ford.
Documentary maker Pascal-Alex Vincent (Miwa: in search of the black lizard) brings together an astonishing document about the intricate threads and fascinations that have woven Kon’s cropped filmography – though it may never get the same kind of glimpse of the man himself. Yet this was neither what he intended to do, nor an achievable goal. Glimpses of the artist show him to be changeable and often contradictory: like his dedication to reforming the notoriously draconian and dictatorial anime industry while being a demanding flogger.
Yet this film is about the artist, not the often reluctant and rarely spotted man. This is where Vincent doesn’t just argue to put Kon up there with Miyazaki. In place, The illusionist is a large-scale reassessment that treats him like a major director to be discussed in new contexts. Indeed, the frustration that he was ever associated with the creative force of Studio Ghibli is a rippling wave throughout the film, a curse that gripped him in international critics who have always made the comparison creatively, and the Japanese studios that sought to replicate Miyazki’s commercial success. . Finally, his work is a mainstay of repertoire programming and Blu-ray re-releases, and his influence is clear in the work of modern game-changing animators like Masaaki Yuasa (The night is short, walk on Girl, Mamoru Hosoda (Summer wars, Mirai), and, and Rodney Rothman (Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse). Yet what he did for them was to broaden the vision of cinema to which they were allowed to aspire. His career reminds us that animation is a medium, not a genre.
Satoshi Kon: the illusionist screened as part of the Fantasia International Film Festival, from August 5 to 25. Info and virtual passes on fantasiafestival.com.