Feb 27, 2013

Paradise: Love

Austria’s answer to Harmony Korine (of course, he’s been around much longer), Austrian aberrant-garde arthouse auteur Ulrich Seidl (Animal Love aka Tierische Liebe, Import/Export) has made a career out of creating curious cinéma vérité and ridiculously raunchy realist works of the trashy tragicomedic sort about the less than flattering aspects and individuals of his post-Nazi nation, but with his more recent films, he has taken his countrymen out of his country, thereupon depicting a globalized world of exploiters and the exploited and slaves and masters ripe with eccentricity and absurdity. With Import/Export (2009) – a work about a Ukrainian nurse who goes to the West to find a better life and an Austrian man who heads to Eastern Europe to attempt the same thing – Seidl quasi-pornographically demonstrates in a highly intimate and indelicate manner that both ends of Europe have degenerated into vapid, culture-less cuckolds of capitalism, albeit with the German-speaking world being in a superior, if not more culturally senile and stale, situation where they can buy down-and-out Slavs for pennies. Naturally, Seidl takes things further with Paradise: Love (2012) aka Paradies: Liebe – the first chapter in the filmmaker’s “Paradise Trilogy” (three films that focus on three different women from the same family) which was co-written by the filmmaker’s seemingly equally cynical and salacious wife Veronika Franz, someone who has indubitably added a feminine touch to these cinematic works – as he finally travels to the dark continent, most specifically Kenya, a place where apparently lonely and sexually repressed European women go to patronize young black bucks who are young enough to be their sensual sweethearts, but for a price that literally could support a whole family. An innately anti-erotic realist tale in an exotic land about the pros, but mostly cons of globalization, multiculturalism, and so-called post-colonialism, Paradise: Love is a uniquely ugly film ironically set at a beautiful beach resort about our miserably materialist times where bought flesh of the foreigner kind makes for a seedy substitute for organic love of the domestic kind. A potent antidote to the creepy ‘cougar’ craze that somewhat recently molested the Occidental world via the always horny and sexually dysfunctional folks in hollyweird, as well the recent phenomenon of young African Negroes swindling extremely lonely, desperate, and naïve European women out of their money with hollow promises of love and exotic primitive potency, Paradise: Love is a radical and risqué reminder as to why the nonwhite world no longer respects its now-impotent and dwindling ex-masters, even if a rather dubious 'relationship' is still in place, albeit in a determinedly degenerating way. 

 Contemporary Austria is certainly not the world Uncle Adolf envisioned, as mongoloid Aryan dudes with Down syndrome can be seen riding around in bumper cars at amusement parks and 50-year-old Nordic mothers see Kenya – an East African land of Negroes – as the perfect place to take a vacation, or at least protagonist Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel) of Seidl’s Paradise: Love does.  After all, with all the young men in Austria being seemingly retarded, what is a lonely and lascivious lady supposed to do?! Spurred by a desperate and deep-seated desire to be loved and desired, Teresa cannot help but be flattered when young Kenyan men approach her romantically on her immediate arrival, even if she does not believe they find her sexually attractive and all considering she is somewhat overweight and certainly past her prime in terms of attractiveness, but those blonde goldilocks are virtual gold on the dark continent as they are the sign of a wealthy tourist looking for the ultimate erotic Negro experience. As Teresa learns upon arriving in Kenyan, the most important words for a foreigner to learn is the Swahili phrase, “Hakuna Matata” (literally "There are no worries," but more akin to “no problem” in American English), yet the vacation proves to be nothing but problems of the lonely and heartbroken sort as the less than fresh Fräulein confuses prostitution with a genuine relationship and love with fleeting lust. Indeed, Kenya has some slick playas who know a thing or two about how to hustle a horny and romantically hopeless European women into thinking they actually have started a serious relationship of mutual affection, because instead of being blunt gigolos who bugger old babes for an upfront fee, the hustlers merely ask for financial support for family members. After being hassled by a number of brothers whose aggressive hustling methods throw her into a state of hysteria, Teresa finally meets a more mellow and mild-mannered young man named Munga (Peter Kazungu), who despite being married, inevitably cons the Austrian woman into supporting his whole family, but things naturally take a turn for the worse when the charismatic Kenyan’s ‘hustle and flow’ is revealed, thereupon leading to heartbreak of the humiliating sort for the aged Aryaness and a couple blows to the brotha's grill. Unlike her three blonde friends – who know what they are paying for and have no qualms about doing so – Teresa is looking for a little more than a virile brotha’ with a big black bush-beater, thus her impenetrable loneliness and age-based lack of self-esteem is all the more compounded by her sordid and steamy but ultimately senseless sabbatical. Naturally, the absurdity of Teresa’s quest for love reaches its peak when her friends give her a birthday present in the form of a jolly and bestially gyrating Negro in his birthday suit who shakes his dick for dollars, or as one of lecherous lady’s says quite jubilantly, “He is all yours, from head to dick,” in what amounts to a determinedly daunting and debasing scenario that is probably the most patently pitiable scene in Paradise Love; a film that reminds the viewer that the death of the west will probably not be through genocide, but suicide via materialism and moral and cultural devaluation brought about by capitalism and globalization. Indeed, the flesh-flaunting Kenyan’s body is all Teresa’s, “from head to dick” for a couple minutes, but his heart and soul remain somewhere else. 

 Undoubtedly, Paradise: Love is not the first film of its kind and certainly not the last, but it is undoubtedly the best and most authentic of its kind, especially in context with contemporary times. While Alberto Cavallone’s Le salamandre (1969) depicted the patronizing and inevitably tragic master-slave dynamic between a racially mixed black-white couple, Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) portrayed the forlorn future of a 60-year-old German widow and an illiterate Moroccan in his late-30s, Werner Schroeter’s Palermo oder Wolfsburg (1980) revealed the deplorable consequences of a lost-in-translation, 'give and take' miscegenation-based relationship, and Laurent Cantet’s Heading South (2005) presented sexual tourism as a necessity in a deteriorating third world society where sexually and romantically desperate woman are able to buy young boy toys they could not purchase elsewhere, Paradise: Love manages to pick up on all these taboos themes that have become all the more relevant in our increasingly globalized world where social alienation and isolation is rampant, but executed in a minimalistic and understated manner that is neither preachy nor pretentious but plainly penetrating in a cultural pessimist sort of way that recalls Schopenhauer and Cioran. In fact, throughout Paradise: Love, protagonist Teresa attempts at various times during her trip to contact her adult daughter via telephone but receives no response, thus her sorrowful solitude is not merely the result of a lack of sexual and romantic affection, but an all-encompassing heartache and melancholy sparked by the fundamental structure of society itself where everything has a price, but nothing has any intrinsic value, hence people's confusion between sex and love in the modern world. In a sense, Paradise: Love is the cinematic adversary of Age of Consent (1969) directed by Michael Powell and starring James Mason – a film about an old artist (Mason) who is fatigued by the soulless hustle and bustle of NYC, so he goes to Australia and eventually finds inspiration in the fair-skinned and fecund form of a vulnerable and voluptuous teenage girl (played by a very young and shapely Helen Mirren in her first major role) in what becomes a relatively innocent relationship – as while Seidl’s film is a positively pessimistic work that offers no solace from sorrowfulness aside from contrasting scenery and blacker-than-a-Kenyan dark comedy, the older film promises hope for the hopeless. Although not Seidl’s greatest cinematic effort, Paradise: Love is quite unmistakably one of the director's most accessible works, thus making it a more than worthy introduction for naïve virgins of Austrian cinematic nihilism and negativity of the strikingly compelling, if not corrupting, sort. 

-Ty E

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