Published Sep 10, 2012Having established his shockingly candid and distressingly real style with unflinching and controversial titles like Dog Days, Import/Export and Animal Love, Ulrich Seidl's pseudo-realist, voyeuristic, satirical style has lost a bit of its edge.
This isn't to say that his incisive candour isn't any less valid, rather the occasional erect penis or fully nude senior citizen trying to convince a young man to give her cunnilingus doesn't shock the way it used to.
With Paradise: Love, the first in an ambitious trilogy flipping the bird to the bullshit veneer of exotic getaways, Seidl strips away the pretence and glamour of an older zaftig Austrian woman's trip to Kenya. Initially, Teresa (Margarete Tiesel) finds her manufactured resort paradise exciting, feeding the many monkeys swarming her balcony bananas and enjoying a suntan on a beach segregated from the many leering locals desperate to sell homemade apparel. But once her horny best friend starts talking about the young black man fulfilling her sexual needs, noting that she has a hard time telling them all apart, Teresa's innocent getaway takes a very different turn.
With extended conversations about pubic grooming and the occasional racist joke about a bartender looking like "Uncle Ben," Seidl reiterates his commitment to unfettered realism. He even draws a parallel between the monkeys swarming for bananas on Teresa's balcony to the many men that swarm her every time she leaves the resort area, offering her rides, knick-knacks and, most importantly, love.
Once the political incorrectness is established, this pitch-black comedy and social critique dives into repetition, detailing Teresa's gullibility in believing that a younger man, who barely speaks her language, loves her. It takes some work on his part, but after she teaches him how to fondle her breasts and kiss without jamming his tongue down her throat, he starts coming up with various family emergencies that require money.
It's only when she falls for this same routine a second time that the opening image of the film, wherein a group of mentally handicapped people play bumper cars, finds meaning. While not exactly subtle, Seidl is at least consistent with execution and clear in message. It's just debatable whether or not a 20-minute scene of multiple nude older women having a contest to see who can get their stripper fully erect first helps add anything other than sheer sensationalism. (Ulrich Seidl Filmproduktion)