Dream Machine Opens Subconscious to Outsiders in Brilliant Anime Fantasy


In Satoshi Kon's latest sprawling anime, the jumble of modern Japanese consciousness is a nightmare that threatens to take over the world through everyone's dreams.

A parade of appliances, Shinto icons, figures from Emaki scroll-painting and dime-store tchotchkes invades the sleep of victims, enabled by an experimental dream monitor that falls into malevolent hands.

If fantasy author Neil Gaiman were Japanese instead of British, you might mistake the idea for his. Nightmares are the ordinary made extraordinary, and Kon's adaptation of the popular Japanese sci-fi novel employs the same sharp, graphic-novel visuals and the fuzzy logic that is familiar to the universe of Gaiman's Sandman.

It's up to Dr. Atsuko Chiba, the research scientist leading the effort to develop the DC mini dream device, to find the culprit. She employs her dream alter ego Paprika, a fiery, up-tempo manga ingenue, to navigate within the dream world.

Who Paprika is, exactly, is never fully accounted for. She appears to function beyond Chiba's own consciousness and aids others in their self-analyses. She is, in some respects, an avatar who has exceeded the limits of the video game.

It is Paprika, for example, who brings homicide Detective Konakawa into Chiba's circle of phantasm fighters. The flinty, noirish cop is haunted by dream-pursuit clowns and acrobats, all with his own face, and transitions into action-movie genres that suggest trouble with his past.

Also aiding the effort is the device's inventor, a grossly obese, childlike genius. The jolly Buddha of a man had intended the DC mini as a therapeutic device before all had gone awry but is now shattered at the terrorism of invading other people's dreams.

The mind-blowing iconic imagery of Kon's surreal parade, in which geisha dolls emit screams that shatter glass towers and raccoons stumble holding bottles of sake, seems to comment on Japan's confused identity. In this way, it echoes Kon's "Millennium Actress," in which characters hopped between movies that represented Japan's history.

One has to draw from the film's visual feast what one can, as dream disjointedness mingles uncomfortably with a lack of adequate exposition. Like a nightmare, its story doesn't always make sense or cohere, especially at its city-smashing climax.

Despite the jumble, Kon's eye-popping, surreal mastery of the Japanese dream is awakening.

— Gianni Truzzi, Seattle Post-Intelligencer


Wed March 11, 2009, 7:00 & 9:00, Muenzinger Auditorium

Japan, 2006, Japanese/English, Color, 90 min, R, 35mm (1.85:1) • official site



10 films for $60 with punch card
$9 general admission. $7 w/UCB student ID, $7 for senior citizens
$1 discount to anyone with a bike helmet
Free on your birthday! CU Cinema Studies students get in free.


Pay lot 360 (now only $1/hour!), across from the buffalo statue and next to the Duane Physics tower, is closest to Muenzinger. Free parking can be found after 5pm at the meters along Colorado Ave east of Folsom stadium and along University Ave west of Macky.


Park elsewhere and catch the HOP to campus

International Film Series

(Originally called The University Film Commission)
Established 1941 by James Sandoe.

First Person Cinema

(Originally called The Experimental Cinema Group)
Established 1955 by Carla Selby, Gladney Oakley, Bruce Conner and Stan Brakhage.

C.U. Film Program

(AKA The Rocky Mountain Film Center)
First offered degrees in filmmaking and critical studies in 1989 under the guidance of Virgil Grillo.

Celebrating Stan

Created by Suranjan Ganguly in 2003.

C.U. Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Established 2017 by Chair Ernesto Acevedo-Muñoz.

Thank you, sponsors!
Boulder International Film Festival
Department of Cinema Studies & Moving Image Arts

Looking for a gift for a friend?
Buy a Frequent Patron Punch Card for $60 at any IFS show. With the punch card you can see ten films (a value of $90).

Cox & Kjølseth
: Filmmaker Alex Cox & Pablo Kjølseth discuss film topics from their own unique perspectives.

: Pablo and Ana share Zoom-based briefs on what's currently playing at IFS

Search IFS schedules

Index of visiting artists

Tue Dec 5, 2023

Rare Exports

At Muenzinger Auditorium

Thu Dec 7, 2023

Princess Mononoke

At Muenzinger Auditorium

more on 35mm...