Tag Archives: dreams

Found in Escapes

What if I seek light in
This night.
Flicker lights falling upon my
Cheek, glistening a part of it, a part
Still left hidden.
What if I seek journey here
Sitting at a deserted bus stand, who
Uses them anyway? Maybe,
Some adventures are good untravelled
What if I seek dance in
The still trees and fully
Blossomed but burdened petals
Of this red red flower, Maybe
Some emotions are best unspoken
Nothing has
Broken down in this part of
The world. The passers by
Still passing, the pretentious
Still talking
What if I seek forgiveness in
This waning crescent moon,
This stillness, this halt
This long drawn silence is not
Here to stay forever,
But it’s still mine
So I don’t see anything moving
But my memories, Maybe
Some notes are better unplayed
Some songs,
Better unsung.


Picture: It’s me trying to discover Fort Kochi


Seldom songs will just be played
When it’s not the music
That we need, but
The words.
I would want your love, laying
Right at that couch, in
The living room.
I would want that touch, not
For I need what love gives
But to realise,
All what it failed to make
Of our lives.


Picture : Well, that’s me chilling at the beautiful coastal city of Kochi

Paprika (2006) : The Dreams that Destroyed Tokyo

The late Satoshi Kon may be the only film director who could’ve made a satisfying film of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. I’m not sure whether Kon was familiar with Pynchon. Pynchon’s sensibilities, his fascination with “low” culture and the overlapping spaces of paranoia and erotic fantasy, his love of kaleidoscopic set-pieces, would have meshed perfectly with Kon’s, and animation would’ve allowed for more of the visual lushness in his prose to come through than did in Paul Thomas Anderson’s ambitious but visually dull Inherent Vice.

But Kon made Paprika and died soon after. Paprika is his greatest work and what the French would call a testament film. Adapting Yasutaka Tsutsui’s hallucinatory science fiction novel of the same name, Kon comes to the culmination of the themes that ran through his work from his first film Perfect Blue to his thirteen episode anthology anime Paranoia Agent, to which Paprika could be considered a companion piece. The imagination branches out into the world of the tangible; we’re left in the dark as to which actually takes primacy and even more in the dark as to which one should.

The film follows the intrigue surrounding a device being tested for use in psychotherapy called the DC Mini. The DC Mini attaches to the patient’s scalp and allows the therapist to view their dreams on a laptop monitor and to enter and manage them. However, the device soon reveals itself to have mysterious side effects; therapists at the lab start going mad; entering and exiting the dreams becomes more difficult. It’s discovered that one of the prototypes has been stolen by a “dream terrorist”. The chairman of the foundation, the device’s tubby inventor, and a young therapist named Chiba Atsuko who also moonlights as the alluring and mysterious “Paprika” in peoples’ dreams, all attempt to find the culprit who’s tampering with the dreams; meanwhile the dream parade starts marching into the reality.

Political action is so commonly referenced in terms of the presence or absence of sleep-there’s “unrest” among certain elements, political “awakenings”, “restlessness in the streets”, “I have a dream”, “wake up sheeple” (this one counts double due to the conscious or unconscious double entendre of the counted sheep), “the American dream”. Taking this into account, the concept of a dream terrorist seems less like a genre conceit than a literalization of something that was so close to the surface it was perhaps resting on top of it; the opposite of a subtext, a supra-text. Because of this the film doesn’t need a specific political context and accordingly doesn’t provide one.

In fact, it seems to evade a specificity of context. For a film focused on therapists and dreams there’s little to no Freud or Lacan present. As a parable about man’s relationship with technology it takes perhaps a wiser course in evading the gritty particulars but embracing the overwhelming lack of sense in dreams; at times it seems like Inception would have outright plagiarized this film but for Nolan’s boring literalism and general lack of imaginative powers. Inception laid out clear “levels” to dreams, most of which looked like cut screens from action video games; Nolan’s “dream” space makes too much rational sense to convincingly be such and mistakes “cleverness” for insight. Kon makes no such mistakes. Kon lets dreams be nonsense, the unbecome not quite becoming; there are few to no expository scenes of pseudo-scientific explanation or underlining to say “this is what I’m doing here, gee isn’t it cool.”

The DC-Mini is a cinematic device and the film is pretty clear about its being such. It doesn’t really care about creating a coherent internal logic for the machine. It’s positioned it as a poetic metaphor through which to explore the nature of the internet and the cinema. The content of the dreams that run rampant throughout Tokyo look like a bunch of discarded childrens’ toys that had been jammed into a closet.

Before the dreams escape to wreak havoc on Tokyo, when they’re contained in the patients’ mind and projected back on the monitor attached to the DC-mini, they look like the way children watch movies; the bits and pieces of genre frameworks made the fodder of fantastic self-projection feeling itself out. The fantasies have a reality to them; if we exist in a consensus reality, well, a consensus is a thing that can wander pretty far into the fantastic. “Consensus” gets top billing in that phrase for a reason.

The first of these dream sequences, the one that opens the film, is that of a police detective. It ends with a slowed down shot of a person being shot in a hallway. As a viewer trained by years of TV and movies, we expect this to be revealed as a tragic event in the man’s past; a person he wrongfully killed or maybe a partner gunned down during a stakeout. It turns out it’s in fact a scene from a film the man started shooting when he was much younger and in college; this is the stuff of his nightmares, the punctuation that gives form to his regret. The element of the autobiographical in the face of Kon’s end lends a certain poignant quality.

Daydreams and Revolution

…much of what the dossiers call Pirate Prentice is a strange talent for-well, for getting inside the fantasies of others: being able, actually, to take over the burden of managing them…It is a gift the firm has found uncommonly useful: at this time mentally healthy leaders and other historical figures are indispensable. What better way to cup and bleed them of excess anxiety than to get someone else to take over the running of their exhausting little daydreams for them…to live in the tame green lights of their tropical refuges, in the breezes through their cabanas, to drink their tall drinks, changing your seat to face the entrance of their public places, not letting their innocence suffer any more than it already has…to get their erections for them at the oncome of thoughts the doctors feel are inappropriate…fear all, all they cannot afford to fear…

-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

At the beginning of his magnum opus Histoire(s) du Cinema, Jean-Luc Godard states his goal: to present a history of all the films that were never made. Over the hour of the first installment, his own chanting voice layered over itself with tape effects suggesting a religious chant melting is paired with snippets of popular songs and dialogue from movies played over snippets from these and other films, stills of historical events and famous paintings. These images fade in and out of each other, blink back and forth rapidly. Sometimes they’re held in stillness. They sometimes cut to images of Godard himself poking at his typewriter or thumbing through titles on his bookshelf. Other times they cut to patches of black blank screen.

As the film progresses, the importance of the title makes itself apparent-sandwiched between history and cinema is the “s”. The parentheses around the “s” are just as important; they present it simultaneously as a letter we can see and the implication that it isn’t actually supposed to be there; a speculation made concrete by the conjuring power of the language, be it a typed phrase or the space between the images in the film reel. The unreachable sublime object that forms the center of the title the same object being reached at throughout its run time. Images mired in context are brought into the space of dreams; what was the Brechtian device of distancing in the avant-garde structuralist cinema becomes in fact the very space of the immersion of dreams. And as we know, the operations of dreams far exceed the strictures of the pleasure (of their) principle(s).

In the weeks and months after the Zuccotti Park uprising was suppressed by the storm troopers, rumors and excited proclamations still abounded. I got a phone call saying tents were going to be set up in Bryant Park that December; excited I shared the news only to arrive at the same ice rink, the same giant library steps, the same little shops with the same conspicuous trinkets, the same Bryant Park I’d always known, and in the these presences I saw only the lack of tents. I wandered a bit. On a bench I sat and stared at the excessively well dressed couples lazily gliding on the ice long enough for my mind to begin the actual wandering I’d come for.

These proclamations distanced themselves as echoes do. Eventually they stopped altogether. And so the repression begun by the police in the space of the physical had to be completed by the Occupiers in the space of the mind. Further calls of a reemergence were soon met by other activists with angry chastisements made in the guise of practicality or “being real” that it wasn’t going to happen. Underneath this anger sat, of course, the fear of another heartbreak. The many onlookers, some of whom had sent money or visited the Occupation, who had seen it the entire time as a space to watch from a distance in which they could once again be freed to daydream their long repressed daydreams of the possibility of something else, repeatedly asked and continue to ask in confused tones “Where did it go?”

Occupy was the “s” in the parentheses. And in the hasty essays which have since and continue to be piled into the lumpy monolith of the digital left, we see, etched into its surface, tessellated images of a couples’ dance between the possibility of the parenthesis and the frustrated enclosure of the redaction. And we squint; we want to see what these dancers that have so mesmerized us look like, to ponder their faces like those of Hollywood actors or those well-manicured suburban lawns of boys and girls in the catalogs, to wonder if they’d like us or what we’d chose faced with the possibility of rejecting them, secretly secure the odds are against us ever consummating that horrific encounter with their actuality. While squinting sometimes the faces look familiar. Punch and Judy perhaps? But which is Punch? Which is Judy?

Is it naive to consider the revolution any differently? And so, to those who ask of my prior anecdote, “Why didn’t you bring a tent yourself?”, therein lies both your answer and my evasion. And in my evading, I must ask whether the stigma on the evasion is performed with the proper weight.

All that has taken the mask of the practical has led us here.

And so I keep squinting, writing the histories of all the revolutions that were never made.