Paradise: Love, is the second odd film that I have seen at the E Street Cinema in the past week (the first was Springbreakers, which baffled me at the time, but I rather enjoyed it in retrospect). This Austrian film (much of its dialogue is in German) set in Kenya is part of a trilogy directed by Ulrich Seidl. It has no connection to DC other than that it is being screened as part of the DC International Film Festival.
While the protagonist of the film (I can’t remember her name and I don’t think it really matters) is excited to see camels on the beach, monkeys on her balcony, crocodiles, and to play various immature games in water and on sand, the real lure of Kenya’s coast (supposedly Mombasa) is the array of attractive young men available for companionship. Reader beware, the following gets explicit.
Towards the end of the film, it is revealed that the lady in question, a very rotund woman in her 40s or early 50s, has gone to Kenya’s coast to celebrate her birthday with sex by the beach. The preceding 90 minutes or so has already shown the caressing of floppy breasts, illicit photography of male genitalia, detailed discussions on pubic hair grooming, and tongue-kissing, but the culminating birthday bacchanal outdoes just about anything that I have seen on film and will certainly shock puritanical American sensibilities.
The four Austrian women are seen prancing about with what appears to be a boy of 16 years. He has a stereo, does some dance moves on the bed, and gets a ribbon tied around his penis, which much to the chagrin of the overweight ladies only manages to get semi-hard, an understandable state of affairs given the horrendous predicament that he finds himself in.
Unsatisfied with this conclusion (despite some ferocious jerking and what appears to be an ejaculation), the protagonist brings the resort’s bartender up to her room. He is unable to bring himself to perform oral sex on her, so the night ends with yet another disappointment. The viewer is supposed to feel a certain degree of sympathy for the protagonist. Compounding her sexual setbacks, her daughter back in Austria has not phoned or text-ed to wish a happy birthday.
Unfortunately, much of what has preceded in the film has reduced the brand of sex tourism in Paradise: Love to an absurdity. If the interactions between the protagonist and her sexual companions were a bit more believable, the film may have had greater emotional appeal. Having spent time in Nairobi, I found the low level of the Kenyan’s English to be particularly baffling. Perhaps they were dumbing down to be more comprehensible for the Austrian. The foreplay, particularly the endless didactic directions from the Austrian, while mildly humorous, are primarily tiresome.
I don’t think my recap of the movie here will be a spoiler, the real shock value is in the graphics (although interestingly enough, there was no footage of Mombasa’s iconic Fort Jesus, a UNESCO World Heritage site that is at the top of my list to visit whenever I go to Mombasa). The film will run again at the E Street Cinema on Thursday night.