16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
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To be perfectly blunt, Austrian filmmaker Ulrich Seidl's "Paradise: Love" displays three seemingly incongruous qualities simultaneously. It is strangely hopeful, unrepentantly bleak, AND darkly humorous. All of these attributes make it painfully realistic as well. And it is this realness, this unwavering look at some of the seamier elements of aging and sexuality that might scare away more mainstream viewers. I can't say that I enjoyed the movie in a traditional sense, but it certainly made a visceral impact. The first in a proposed trilogy (with Paradise: Faith and Paradise: Hope), the trio of films follow three female members of the same family as they travel on separate excursions. In "Paradise: Love" matriarch Teresa (a fearless Margarete Tiesel) travels to a resort in Kenya for what initially appears to be relaxation and sight-seeing. What quickly becomes apparent, however, is that she actually seeks something of a more intimate nature. The middle-aged women who partake of the luxuries of this establishment use the opportunity to seek out young sexual partners from the local population.
"Paradise: Love" is Teresa's quest. At first, she is merely curious, intrigued and somewhat excited about the adventures her friends have experienced. She seems reticent to move forward, but succumbs to the advances of the first young man who catches her fancy. The brusque and business-like transaction doesn't appeal to Teresa who needs the illusion of love and intimacy as opposed to just physical contact. When she meets a young man who seems to understand her and like her, she gives herself to the experience. Is she naive to think bliss and happiness, however fleeting, are in the cards? Of course, these lonely white women from around the globe fuel much of the local economy so it costs to play in this realm. That is something that Teresa will have to come to terms with in a series of increasingly uncomfortable situations. The movie is really about the evolution of Teresa as the unpleasant realities of this world don't jibe with the romanticized notion she had of this vacation. Laid bare (literally and symbolically), Teresa is soon stripped of any illusions.
"Paradise: Love," by design, is not a film that will appeal to all audiences. It's a small movie with little plot, just a series of random encounters. It is filled with overt and sometimes unpleasant sexuality. If you shy away from explicitness or nudity, this is not the film for you. There is frequent full frontal nudity (male and female) and some of the sequences (the stripper, for example) push the boundaries of what you might have seen dramatized in other films. This is occasionally shocking, and always in your face with its frankness. What is depicted is neither paradise, nor love, and so the title feels deeply ironic. But led by a great Margarete Tiesel, we see into the soul of our protagonist. It is bold and uncompromising. As we so rarely see those of an advanced age sexualized, it brought to mind the wonderful British film "The Mother" (with an absolutely fantastic Anne Reid and Daniel Craig). Once again, "Paradise: Love" is not lightweight or frothy entertainment. It has the power to provoke and disturb. That is both its greatest strength and what will turn some people off. KGHarris, 7/13.
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
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This movie starts off with Teresa (Margaret Tiesel) saying goodbye to her daughter who is lying on her bed playing with her cell phone. It is obvious that her daughter finds Teresa an annoyance. Their relationship seems fraught with disconnection and Teresa leaves for her vacation in Kenya on that note. Once in Kenya, Teresa seems enamored of the country and the beautiful weather along with her hotel. The other women she meets tell her about the men they have been having sex with - young Africans who they meet at the beach or in town. She sees that one of her new friends has purchased a motorbike for her 'boyfriend' and this surprises Teresa. Teresa, at first, is totally against finding a lover. Gradually, she succumbs to the idea and tries to have sex with a man she meets. She can not go through with it as it seems too perfunctory.
This movie examines the morphing of Teresa from a prudish Austrian tourist to a woman who opens up to her sensuality with the young African men she takes to bed. It also shows her increasing knowledge of the psychological and fiscal cost of these encounters. Her 'lovers' want money for different things: their sick nephews, their ill fathers, etc. She realizes at one point that she is being used and lied to and gets furious with the man, berating and even physically battering him.
This is a hard movie to watch. As Teresa becomes aware of the real cost of fulfilling her sexuality, she goes through stages and then partakes of what is expected in this culture of self-fulfillment. There is much frontal nudity which may be difficult for some people to watch. There are also many painful emotional scenes that make this movie dark and despairing. I found that the title hinted at what Teresa hoped for but never did find. I liked the movie but cringed a lot throughout it. It is not a movie for everyone. The plot is not action filled but is slow and filled with a deep nod to Teresa's experiences. Overall, it is a fine movie that left me emotionally spent. The movie is originally in German and has sub-titles.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
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Paradise: Love feels like a documentary about sex tourism in Africa. The cinematography is superb, the atmosphere makes you feel as if you are on vacation as well, and the dialogues feel like real conversations that are both shallow and meaningful at the same time. Sure, it is slow, but it is such a realistic film that I did not want it to end.
Teresa is an Austrian, middle-aged woman who goes to a resort in Kenya to spend a vacation. There she meets other Austrian women like her: unfit, with low self-esteem and hungry for love. Teresa starts meeting local men who "love" her for who she really is, and this is when we really start knowing everybody for who they really are.
At times funny, at times sad, this film makes you ponder about the emotional poverty of some people and the economic poverty of some other. When both of these kinds of poverties meet, rather than complement each other, they leave you feeling more void and poor of what you thought you originally were.
This movie has been compared to "Heading South", but while both films are about sex tourism ("Heading South" is set in Haiti), their plots are different. I am looking forward to watching Paradies: Faith and Paradise: Hope.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
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This movie was perhaps an exploration of a paradox in one woman's thinking. Her conundrum was that she wanted to be seen for more than just a body, yet that is all she could see in her male playmates. Being unwilling to see men as more than a body, each encounter with a new man reflected her limited perspective on men. She would scold and instruct her male playmates if they didn't treat her as something more than a body. It was particularly bizarre to watch her complain to her girlfriends that men could not see her for more than a body while that was all she thought they were. When one resides in a world of mirrors, aka Earth, can it ever be reasonable to expect the image in the mirror to reflect something other than what one is being?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
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At this point, "very interesting" is all I can come up with. Perhaps later I'll be able to be more articulate.
I'll try---first off, the lead actress is amazing! Not only her fearlessness in showing her body but also in showing the full range of her emotions. Mostly, what she impressed me with was her innocence. The other Austrian tourists she met were more or less jaded in their expectations of getting sex for money from these African young men. This woman, our heroine, was actually looking for love. It amazed me how many times she tried, again and again, to find love with these fellows who were clearly doing what they were doing for money. I was also amazed at her naive, but genuine sweetness, as when she met the young "sister" of her first lover and the school children. I also have to give her credit for her dancing...she managed some great moves, there.
What emerged for me, was a picture of a genuinely sweet, but muddled middle class, middle-aged Austrian woman, who could have been any woman from any Western country, as she looked for love. The opening scene shows her at her job which is as a teacher of developmentally disabled adults. She clearly has a big heart. She's not married, her teenage daughter would rather talk on the phone than to her, there is no man in sight, she is rather obsessive about cleanliness. She thinks she is old and fat but she'd really like to believe that she is still desirable. It's all so terribly typical of a lot of women....maybe men, too.
Besides the bald picture of the game of prostitution and mutual exploitation, there is this unexpected beauty that the film shows. The beach at Kenya is gorgeous although studded with men waiting to sell themselves to the female tourists. What struck me was the unexpected beauty of the tiny homes of the African men....especially that of "Mumba," her first "boyfriend," His room, although very humble was quite beautiful. I loved the prints of the fabrics, the colors of the walls, the sheer lavender net that fell over the bed/ Was this for mosquitoes? Maybe...but when he unfolded it and she lay in it, the scene was quite beautiful. Rodin would have loved her! The scene of Mumba, stretched out, nude, on the bed, was quite splendid, too. She recorded this with her cell phone which was terrible funny and just, terrible, But at the same time, he was so beautiful, that you couldn't blame her.
I think it is this position of the film maker -- of objectivity---non-judgement as he showed what the poor Black African men did and what the middle class White Austrian women did that give this film it's value. He doesn't spare us any of the details but even the most bald nude scenes are shown with such honesty that I found it all quite amazing. Obviously every viewer will see this differently, some with moral judgment, some with shock, some with sociological tsk-tsk-ing. For me, it's just quite amazing. I am reminded of a line from a Tennessee Williams play, that "nothing human is disgusting." I look forward to seeing the rest of this film maker's Paradise trilogy.