Sunday, December 16, 2012

Paradies: Liebe (Paradise: Love)

A movie that polarized audiences after the premiere in competition at 2012 Cannes with some highly disliking film and others highly liking film; but seems that no matter whether they like/dislike it, all agree that film is grotesque.

Was a bit concern about watching this film as Ulrich Seidl's previous film Import/Export was one that I stopped watching when couldn't take anymore whatever was happening in the screen. But to my surprise, this time his film was engaging and easier to watch even when I also consider film to be grotesque. Why? Mainly because he portraits "something" not often seen in any cinema.

Because of the story many relate this film to Laurent Cantet's Vers Le Sud (Heading South) but in my opinion films have the same story essence, sex tourism, however they are two very different films; so different that have to remind you that I did not liked much Cantet's film while I liked Seidl's "ugly" portrait more than whatever I imagined.

In this "ugly" sense I relate this film to Carlos Reygadas' Batalla en el Cielo (Battle in Heaven) that has some very "ugly" and grotesque scenes; the basic difference is that Reygadas shows us a man with a younger woman while Seidl shows a woman with younger men. The not often seen "something" that Seidl shows in an almost documentary style are the many scenes with naked older, overweight women, which obviously many tend to consider "ugly" as doesn't fit contemporary and mainly cinema standards of "beauty". So perhaps now you will understand better when I say that this is not an easy to watch film for most general audiences as they are not used to watch "ugliness" in the screen.

There you have it, I said it as clear as I can. So with this issue out of the way, let's talk about the movie.

On the surface Paradise: Love tells the story of a flabby, divorced, lonely 50-year-old woman, Teresa, that for her milestone birthday goes to a beach paradise in Kenya looking forward to indulge in what a friend told her she will find there: sex. But with what seems like naiveté she was expecting more love than sex, more caring about her than plain physical contact, which obviously she will not find at a place with young men living out from the "white mamas". She was expecting love and was not able to play the sex-game. But film is more complex and layered than the surface story mainly because Seidl's storytelling/filmmaking style that show us scenes that contain what could be considered as humiliating, racist, blur between exploited/exploitation which recalls colonialism and more.

Film is visually outstanding, especially in indoor scenes, with fantastic use of color, light and very detailed static compositions; some definitively inspired by paintings, like one scene that absolutely recalls Manet's Olympia. Fantastic as absolutely eases whatever we are watching in screen. Then narrative is rooted in improvisation which along with some camera takes gives film the almost documentary style where film purpose is to document situations more than telling a story. But let me be clearer, there is a story here; a story that deals with complex emotional truths about sadness, cruelty and the search of happiness. Last, this is the best example I have seen that clearly illustrates the now famous "Ulrich Seidl Method".

Film tells only Teresa's perspective, so don't expect to see development in any other character played by actors and non-actors; but Margarete Tiesel (Teresa) performance is outstanding in every sense, from carrying on the entire film to what many non-European viewers/critics comment, daring to undress in the screen. The last comment I consider very superfluous and tied to their "beauty" and/or what is acceptable to be shown in the screen concepts; but include it as yes, I was caught off guard the first time she was in any state of undressing, but honestly soon enough I forgot about it. That's how good Tiesel performance is.

Absolutely understand why this film was in competition at 2012 Cannes, understand why audiences are polarized and definitively understand that film is NOT for general audiences. My best reference to recommend watching the film is that if you saw Reygadas' Battle in Heaven and the grotesque scenes did not bothered you, then maybe you will enjoy this film as much as I did.

Film is the first installment of a trilogy called Paradies (Paradise) about three women form one family (you will see them together at the beginning of this movie) with one exploring Love, another Faith and the last one Hope. Paradise: Faith, the second installment about Teresa's sister, was premiered in 2012 Biennale to "better" reviews and the last one, Paradise: Hope is about Teresa's daughter that somehow I imagine will premier at a major 2013 festival. Yes, I'm looking forward to the next installments but truth is that the first is a film that I could watch only once, so no Paradise marathons for me.


Watch trailer @MOC

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