FILM REVIEW | Our Paradise8th July 2012
Despite its lack of motive, this film nurtures a disturbing subculture of achieving status by taking what’s not yours to take.
Something deeply dark and disturbing yet visually enticing awaits viewers for this French drama about a 30-something hustler whose neurosis about ageing is, we assume, turning him to a motiveless murderous monster. After finding a younger man (Dimitri Durdaine) lying dazed, damaged and suffering from memory loss in the cruising grounds of Bois de Boulogne, Paris, Vassili (Stephane Rideau) shrouds his new muse, becoming a hybrid of pimp/lover figure to his new squeeze. After a client, who Vassili believes he had murdered, is discovered living in Paris, the two lovers and now accomplices are forced to go on the run.
Our Paradise is an enigmatically beautiful piece of cinematography with much thought given to ensuring that the characters are either corpulently grotesque or fallen angelic beauties, not in equal measure, however. Angelo is the fallen angelic beauty – both inside and out. Vassili’s world is full of these gross, bloated and aged individuals who, one imagines used to be paying trade, now, with fresh blood, and Vassili’s burgeoning potbelly hindering his prospects; the fallen angelic beauty reignites business. One odd scene, Angelo is examined by a doctor, ostensibly to see whether the boy was raped shoves a camera into the boy’s anus and describes his findings ‘smooth as silk.’ This is, however, as far as character probing goes. Uncomplex and a little two dimensional in some respects the characters are more animalistic in their pursuits. Durdaine is almost entirely detached from his character, which adds to the rather chilling but lonely portrayal of Angelo.
Durdaine plays an almost perfect twink to Rideau’s inflated frame and the audience is given many opportunities to revel in his nakedness, which of course is wonderful and does distract from some the many questions that the film’s lack of motive throws up.
One of the key issues explored is the often mismatched relationships between younger gay men and their respective elder partners. The narrative doesn’t judge, but merely outlines the possible issues faced by such relationships, most notable replaceability for a younger, newer, fresher model and the power struggle between the monied and the beneficiary.
The supporting cast is superb, their performances loiter in the mind as an uneasy feeling engulfs you. Sterling performances from supporting cast Béatrice Dalle and a young Mathis Morisset who shows acting promise far beyond his years.
The brilliantly translated subtitles really draw you into the action, distracting the audience from analysing our anti heroes’ intentions. Why the film is called Our Paradise remains, annoyingly elusive, as paradise is unobtainable for Vassili and Angelo. The ending makes the film feel a little pointless and if you’re looking for a bow to wrap up the little details you certainly won’t find it in this film.