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Knut Erik Grorud,
This is a film about the 'students ball' in Horn, the little Austrian town Seidl grew up. The movie portraits the young débutantes as well as the local notables, all of them eagerly involved in maintaining the stiff and stifling ritual.
On the beaches of Kenya they're known as "Sugar Mamas" -- European women who seek out African boys selling love to earn a living. Teresa, a fifty-year-old Austrian and mother of a daughter entering puberty, travels to this vacation paradise. She goes from one beach boy to the next, from one disappointment to the next and finally she must recognize: On the beaches of Kenya, love is a business. Written by
Funny, unpleasant, charming, tragic and thought-provoking gem
Without knowing anything more about this, than getting quite OK reviews, I went to see this as they had taken the film I came to see off the day before. Choosing away Skyfall, Stone's Savages and the German film Barbara, because I heard this film was provoking.
It is provoking, at least to many, I'll guess. But I found it to be a very good film, with just as much emphasis on other qualities. The opening scene is simply hilarious, an made the whole crowd instantly fall in a good mood with a LOL-moment, but not without us feeling a tiny bit of shame. This has nothing to do with the film itself, except giving us a glimpse of the main person, Theresa's, background. Completely brilliant way to set tone, and making the audience aware, an f...king hilarious!
We soon see her, as a 50'ish woman preparing for holiday trip to Kenya. Arriving there, we see the obvious goal for a paradise holiday in the sun, and obviously something a lot of German speaking tourists do, as the locals are quite good in German phrases. we are soon seeing that sex tourism is quite big down here, and a reluctant Teresa goes along after getting recommendations from her experienced travel friend, which already is "going steady" with her sugar mama.
As th film plays on, we get a close look at what this sex traffic is all about. Not much prettier than we have learned from men's trips to Thailand or Indonesia. It unravels both he understanding of the reason, as well as the less pretty sides of it. It's shown in a good way, but is more an more showing the unpleasant and nasty sides of it as well. It's after a while thrown Directly and literary in your face.
Director Ulrich Seidl is perhaps taking after his well known and brilliantly provoking countryman Mikael Haneke, and succeeds very well. This is the first if a trilogy starting with "Paradise" as first word in the title. I'll be sure to see the two next ones, as this simply gave me the same great feeling to watch as the first of Kieslowki's "Trois coleurs" back in 1993.
This film is many things at the same time, and a gem for those not to easily offended. It's fun in a quirky Scandinavian way, it's beautifully filmed, and great and neatly told. It doesn't take a stand, but it wants you to do so. It's both beautiful and sad, both funny and tragic, both charming and disgusting. But most if all, it feels very true, and not at all fake. But I think all the laughs here are fabulously loosening up what gives us bad tastes in mouth. It makes the very balanced, even though taking up a severe subject to discussion.
I guess many will have troubles watching the naked bodies, as well as heavily overweight women indulging in sex acts with young local's, but I heavily recommend to give it a shot. This gem won't leave you for a long time. It even gives a great picture of Kenya as a travel goal, with th draw backs of what tourism might lead to. Stunningly good filmmaking and surely something you haven't seen on screen before!
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