Teresa, a fifty-year-old Austrian mother, travels to the paradise of the beaches of Kenya, seeking out love from African boys. But she must confront the hard truth that on the beaches of Kenya, love is a business.
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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
We enter here a paradisaical world with this woman, a middle-aged Austrian who's gone to Kenya on vacation. We enter as she does, strangers, fascinated. There is no transition to this new world, no waiting on airports, no planning for the journey, we are immediately swept as if by the urge to be there. Once there we see as she does, stylized images, arranged symmetries.
In the hotel resort there are trivial games, senile safety, control: the Africans are confections to be toyed with and enjoyed, ranges for the eye to roam. The question that looms is is she there for the encounter and surprise or merely looking for images to bring home to a dull life? You'll see this early in the metaphor with the monkey that takes her bait but refuses to be photographed, eluding her. More importantly: are we here on cinematic vacation or to come to an understanding?
Out in the streets there is a more palpable tension however; all about baring yourself to be seen and the quest for meaning. I like the subject, the lush Africa, the sexual frankness, the fact that sex and meaning are sublimated in a viewing space between people.
So I believe this could have been tremendously powerful stuff in the right hands. Alas the filmmaker is Austrian and this means that we see in the same stark light they bring to everything they do: from logic to politics to music. What does this mean, a stark light ?
It means every encounter has to be sooner rather than later exposed as meaningless, because the ultimate point here is some void at heart, the same that originally creates the journey there, which is also the filmmaker's. It means that he can't let go, and not allowing himself to yet know, coast on the tension of an encounter that may be false, that most probably is false, yet like movies and love work in life, that we can throw ourselves in it as if it is real and in doing so imbue it with truth, weave it from air. A Mood for Love with a question behind each glance.
I'm dreaming of the film Cassavetes would do: all about building to this more or less certain horizon of betrayal with momentary truths, small moments like passing a joint in the dark, riding this tension, hiding the logical knowledge. So I lament this because his failure is the same as his heroine's failure to find fulfillment. He resorts to more obvious stuff, merely chronicling the lack: disillusionment, loneliness and how that gives rise to dehumanizing spectacle as in the scene where the woman is offered in her hotel room a witless African to tease and fondle. Ordinary.
You can even see this reluctance in his camera when now and then he lets it wander: we don't deeply feel the textures, we are never truly enmeshed in the world.
Again this is as much cinematic translation of the woman's pov as it is inescapable worldview for the filmmaker, the same boxed worldview that Herzog runs from by journeying to the edges to throw himself on the manifold strangeness of things, letting his eye roam, staging boats tugged over hills so it can become real.
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