Feature

Paradise: Love

A vacationing divorcée learns how to pay for sex.

Directed by Ulrich Seidl(Not rated)

***

Few movies have been as unflinching as this Austrian import in depicting “the ugly, heartbreaking ways human beings can mutually exploit one another,” said Mike D’Angelo inthe A.V. Club. The story of a middle-aged woman’s venture into sex tourism, it becomes monotonous in its determination to shame its characters, yet Margarete Tiesel’s “shrewd, fearless” lead performance offers a bold study in bone-deep loneliness. Tiesel’s Teresa has escaped Vienna for a beach in Kenya where white women learn to pay discreetly for sexual favors from young black men. Each time clothes are shed, the director’s clear intent is to show these transactions in a harsh light, said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. Unfortunately, “in depicting degradation, he is also enacting it”—making demands of his performers that are “very hard to defend on moral grounds.” To me, his interest in the characters’ sad reality looks more like the deepest empathy, said Michael Atkinson in The Village Voice. As disturbing as it is, Paradise: Love “might be the greatest film ever made about the weird socioeconomics of tourism.”

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