I Know Paprika Killed Me, by Ric Meyers
Prurient: “Having or intended to arouse an unwholesome interest in sexual matters.”
– Encarta World English Dictionary
That’s pretty much the only word anyone needs to explain I Know Who Killed Me starring Lindsay Lohan. The words “great,” “well-made,” “engrossing,” or even “entertaining” wouldn’t suffice. “Fascinating,” however, might fit, given this car wreck of a film perfectly represented the star’s car wreck of a life at the time of its production.
The term “car wreck” is carefully and purposely chosen, however, since watching Lohan’s human accident is much like slowing down for highway rubbernecking – thanks to the “celebrity” obsessed media (who’s far more interested in such things than the public they maintain they serve seems to be).
Much in the way you can chart any actor’s state of mind by the projects they choose, this unfocussed, confused, schizo, meandering, self-absorbed-slash-self-loathing-slash-self-aggrandizing-slash-self-mutilating effort can reveal anything you ever wanted to know about Lohan’s self-sabotaging lifestyle. Her stumbles are all the more sad since, of the troika of self-immolating “celebs” the media is micro-analyzing (Britney and Paris make up the rest of the 3 Stooges), Lohan is clearly the most promising and/or talented.
That talent is only vaguely on display in this slasher psycho-drama, leaving only the body the actress and media seem to have a love/hate relationship with. Within the pretentious, muddled, fairly dull film, she plays a college student, who, after barely surviving an abduction, torture, and mutilation by a serial killer, wakes up to maintain that she’s a self-destructive stripper. This allows the film to lurch hither and yon between both girls’ lives as somebody searches for the sicko, and director Chris Sivertson tries to out DePalma Brian DePalma when it comes to pointless “are they or aren’t they?” fantasies, dream sequences, and flashbacks.
The film not only represents Lohan’s life, but it also reflects the quality of the DVD’s “special” features. The “Alternate Opening” and “Blooper Reel,” especially, are as misleading as the film. The former is simply an extended sequence with several more shots of lights reflected in water, which doesn’t change the opening’s meaning in any way (alternate means “different from,” not “slightly longer”). The latter are just a few joyless instances of actors inadvertently confusing a character’s name or not knowing their lines (blooper means that said mistake be “humorous” or even “mildly embarrassing”).
So that leaves the “Alternate Ending” and what any real fan came for: the “Extended Strip Dance Scene.” The former is less than a minute, but long enough to give the connotation that all that preceded it was a fiction from within the mind of the college student. The latter is exactly what it says: a longer version of Lohan’s PG-13 stripper act (complete with R-rated support strippers around her). No question: she’s an attractive young woman who can languidly sashay around on high heels, act pouty/dirty, and even (in the sequence’s “climax”) open her legs. Whoop-dee-do.
It’s a shame, since buried within this flick is a hoot waiting to explode (especially after the survivor is outfitted with a bionic hand and leg to replace the limbs the killer froze, then chopped, off). But every grand guignol possibility is drowned in pointless imagery and no idea is really explored or illuminated. Even the “mystery” of the killer is rendered moot (not to mention boring).
For gorehounds, there are a couple of close-ups of frost bitten, hacked, peeling, bleeding digits, but that’s about it. If you’re as enthralled by Lohan’s degeneration as the media is, I Know Who Killed Me is the DVD for you. Otherwise, go out and get Mean Girls or A Prairie Home Companion and hope she can survive this phase.
Pretty much the only thing Paprika shares with I Know Who Killed Me is a plethora of dream sequences, but there the similarity ends. While these scenes serve as fodder and crutch for the lame live action film, they serve as imagination inspiration for the engrossing anime by deservedly renowned director/scripter Satoshi Kon (Perfect Blue, Millennium Actress and Tokyo Godfathers).
This challenging, eye-filling, mind-bending thriller about a machine that can allow others to enter a person’s dreams (and the battle within and without these dreams to free or control them) is also the culmination of Kon’s present career, as the DVD’s exceptional special features make apparent.
In the making of documentary, interviews, and featurettes, the director’s reverence for the source material – Yasutaka Tsutsui’s novel of the same name – is shown to have had already inspired his greatest films. But when he got the chance to actually adapt the original work, he did two amazing things: one, he involved the author extensively, and two, with Tsutsui’s encouragement, he did whatever he wanted with the material.
The aforementioned extras are all balanced by the director and author’s points of view, and not only is Kon a supreme visual stylist, but Tsutsui’s the rare book writer who acknowledges and appreciates that filmmakers should visually reimagine a book’s themes rather than slavishly attempt to recreate them. The conversations and interviews with both men, together and separately, are informative, intriguing, and absorbing.
They are eventually joined in their talks by the leading voice actors, who not only supply interesting information on how they approached their roles, but add myriad facets in an on-going conversation about the nature of dreams. Subsequent featurettes concern the cgi director – who is justly proud of the fact that his work was seamless and unobtrusive, despite the fact that it was involved in 350 of the film’s scenes – and the art director, who labored mightily, and successfully, to help realize the world of dreams.
Paprika is the kind of unique labor of love that not only deserves to be seen a few times but delightfully requires it, because of its visual magnificence and intellectual invention. Besides, the candid, entertaining, diverse audio commentary by the director, composer, and producer is in subtitled Japanese, and there’s no way you can appreciate it without having seen the film at least once prior to reading it. Paprika is a sweet spice indeed.
Ric Meyers is the author of Murder On The Air, Doomstar, The Great Science-Fiction Films, Murder in Halruua, For One Week Only: The World of Exploitation Films, Fear Itself, and numerous other books and has (and sometimes still is) on the editorial staff of such publications as Famous Monsters of Filmland, Starlog, Fangoria, Inside Kung-Fu, The Armchair Detective and Asian Cult Cinema. He’s also a television and motion picture consultant whose credits include The Twilight Zone, Columbo, A&E’s Biography and The Incredibly Strange Film Show.