Paco and the Magic Book

(Paco to Maho no Ehon)

Canadian Premiere

  • Japan 2008
  • 105 min
  • 35mm
  • Japanese with English subtitles

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“Pseudo-punk attitude, lap-dance eroticism, the Hello Kitty culture of cute, fairy-tale sentimentality and a biting cynicism about the shallow posturing of a style-obsessed civilization” — Ian Bartholomew, TAIPEI TIMES


Director: Tetsuya Nakashima
Screenplay: Hirohito “Elvis” Goto
Cast: Ayaka Wilson, Koji Yakusho, Anna Tsuchiya, Eiko Koike, Satoshi Tsumbuki
Producers: Kazumi Suzuki, Hitoshi Matsumoto, Yutaka Suzuki, Morio Amaki, Yuji Ishida
Distributor: Showgate


Once upon a time, there was a little girl named Paco. Every day, in the garden of the hospital where she is recovering from the terrible car accident that took her parents, Paco reads her favourite book, the tale of a grumpy frog king. And she loves the book anew with each reading, because Paco cannot remember anything for more than 24 hours, due to her injury. But time doesn’t sit still. Paco is slowly finding a place in the heart of a thoroughly awful and mean-spirited corporate tycoon, also a patient at the hospital (alongside several other very strange individuals). Enough so that he becomes convinced that he can redeem himself by producing a stage version of Paco’s beloved book for the hospital’s annual Christmas in Summer pageant. The chances of all going smoothly, however, are as likely as the cherished winter holiday occurring under the blazing summer sun…

Fantasia regulars will no doubt recall with delight the eye-popping gems KAMIKAZE GIRLS and MEMORIES OF MATSUKO, films that confirmed director Tetsuya Nakashima as a virtuoso crafter of candy-coloured tableaux dense with delirious details, and a wizard of bubblegum magic realism, psychedelic silliness that sneakily conceals far more emotional substance than is initially apparent. With PACO AND THE MAGIC BOOK, Nakashima settles into highly suitable territory, the prismatic pop-art children’s fantasy film with a saturnine, sinister twist in the adult-friendly tradition of Roald Dahl. With staging and over-the-top acting that suggests a theatrical work, riotous digital animation, charmingly bizarre characters (including KAMIKAZE GIRLS’s Anna Tsuchiya as a surly bad-girl nurse) and costumes and set design tweaked for maximum ocular stimulation, PACO AND THE MAGIC BOOK is a freakish, fractured fairy tale packed with absolutely everything except a single dull moment.

—Rupert Bottenberg

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