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3.5 out of 5 stars
Our Paradise [DVD]
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41 of 45 people found the following review helpful
on 9 August 2012
I enjoyed this movie a lot more than I expected to based on reviews on other sites. There is a good bit of nudity, but not a lot more of Dimitri Durdaine than anybody else, and (in contrast to at least two others, including Stéphane Rideau) none of him that would qualify as "full frontal" - "full side" is more like it, and even those rarely show much except skin. Some other reviews give the impression that he almost never wears clothes and that the camera examines every square inch of his body, neither of which is true at all.

What there IS more of in this movie than most is naked middle-aged and older men, which may bother some people but delights me. Except for Durdaine, all of the naked men in this movie have pot bellies, including Rideau (who's getting comfortably close to middle age himself), which is wonderfully refreshing in an age when only bronzed and hairless gym bodies under 30 ever appear in American gay movies (Can we say BOR-ing?).

Now that nudity's out of the way... There's something I like a lot about Gaël Morel's movies, but I'm not sure what it is. There's something very natural or unpretentious about them, something familiar and almost comforting, regardless of the subject matter. I feel like I'm among friends when I watch his movies. They FEEL good in some mysterious way comparable movies by other directors don't. He has an eye and a style and a language that are quite distinctive but not easy to define; whatever it is, I like it.

Don't let the crime element fool you: Our Paradise is above all else a love story. Vassili (Rideau), a rough, surly, aging hustler who is already in the habit of killing johns who offend him (and many do, since he's getting old and out of shape), finds a kid (Durdaine) beaten unconscious in a cruising park in Paris, takes him home and cares for him. Because the kid looks like an angel and has an angel tattoo in the lower right corner of his abdomen, and since he won't tell his name, Vassili tries "Angel" in various languages; the kid likes Angelo best, so that's who he is from then on. And from then on he is devoted to Vassili. Nothing that happens (and a lot does) shakes his devotion, and that devotion is the heart of this movie.

Angelo is not stupid or a masochist; he doesn't relate to Vassili as slave to master, cub to bear, boy to daddy, or any of the other gay May-December stereotypes. He simply loves Vassili. When Vassili sees that Angelo really does love him and has no desire to find somebody his own age, he relaxes and begins to trust the relationship too. It's lovely. All of their interactions, including several beautiful sex scenes, reinforce the growing strength of their relationship. None of the sex is gratuitous (whatever that means) or forced.

The backdrop for this sweet and tender romance, of course, are Vassili's increasingly rough tricks (since he's no longer young and hot, he has to do kinkier stuff to stay in business), which are depicted in pretty graphic detail, and his habit of killing johns who make wisecracks about his age. Angelo tries to get him to stop the killing, but it becomes obvious he won't, so rather than leave Vassili Angelo stays with him and occasionally helps.

It's really not much different from Bonnie and Clyde, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or any of countless other mainstream movies about criminal couples... EXCEPT: this is France, so even the murders are civilized, and (Thank God!) guns never play any part in the movie. (What a relief not once to hear the sound of a gun being fired!)

There are no chases, no near escapes, no explosions, none of the noisy, overwrought melodrama that stuffs Hollywood crime movies like fat in a goose's liver. This is a quiet movie, a civilized movie, an intelligent movie. Every murder makes sense because we see them from Vassili's point of view. From the outside he may look like a psychopath, but we see the human being more than the crime; we see a man who is as gentle as a lamb with the (surprisingly many) people he loves and who wipes out the ones who make him unhappy. He's just doing what most of us would LIKE to do.

Even toward the end, when his motives for killing expand, there remains something about everything he does that just feels RIGHT for that character. He does it because he has to. He does it because the ones he kills need to be killed. He has his own moral code, and within that code everything he does is perfectly consistent.

I will emphasize again that Our Paradise is above all a love story, a sweet and surprising love story between a very young man and another nearly twice his age. This movie is about as unconventional as a movie can be - it follows no stereotypes of any genre, and yet it's somehow even more comfortable and familiar than stereotypes are; it's like a gift from an old friend. I don't know of anybody but Morel who can pull off a feat like this with what seems like no effort at all.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2012
Very sexy and sleazy and a great story , think it is more than just a gay film , but explores the problems of rent boys and the disgust they can feel for their clients . Its all very very french , very existentialist and odd and rather like those great french films of 1970s. I loved every minute of it .
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on 2 December 2012
If you are a fan of Gaël Morel (whose films include the incredibly successful and engaging Le Clan [2004] [DVD] and Apres Lui [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]) will not be disappointed with his latest exploration of human experience. Whilst inherently dark in its subject matter "Our Paradise" transcends the depravity of human misconduct, in a manner which is both enticing and sexual. It explores the motivations behind love, lust and human connection, whilst revealing the truth behind some of our most carnal motivations.

Vassili (played by Stéphane Rideau) an experienced hustler, whose moment in the sun is fast fading. His clients are no-longer as interested in him as they once were, and he is fast learning the transient nature of lust and the power of youth. His age is therefore, increasingly counting against him, and he is finding it more and more difficult to attract clientele. As a consequence he is forced to engage in the more seedy practises one finds on the fringe of society, where a fine line is travelled between fetish and depravity. Ironically this appeals to his darker nature, and much like a apprentice he slowly starts to develop his own dark nature. Stealing from his clients, whilst subjecting them to cruel torture and humiliation seems to have no effect of him, as he moves from one experience to another. Yet in his subconscious he knows his time is short, unless he finds a new way of attracting clients.

It is here that he finds the young hustler Angelo (played by Dimitri Durdaine) unconscious in a notorious cruising ground. Like his own clients, he is attracted to Angelo's inherent beauty, youth and innocence, so he takes him home to ensure his safety. This is perhaps one of the only times Vassili shows any sincerity to another, although it is difficult to tell whether he is motivated out of genuine concern or his own hedonistic desires. Quite unexpectedly Angelo develops an intense affection for Vassili, largely out of his own desires for love, human connection and a sense of safety. Each provide the other with the necessary security they need, and together they become a powerful attraction to a new pool of clientele.

Beneath the facade of normality, they continue to engage in their respective professions, although the audience is never sure of who the real manipulator is within this perverse relationship. Not that the two do not have affection for each other, for clearly there is some deep, albeit foreboding connection between the two. Slowly they provide the catalyst for each others dark natures, and out of such affection births a new form of hedonism that preys on the lives of others.

Typical to Gaël Morel's more intense and introspective exploration of humanity this movie seems more concerned with the motivations of self, as opposed to the manifestation of such. For this reason you are drawn into the lives of both Vassili and Angelo, experiences their emotional, physical and intellectual motivations. You cannot help but feel the intensity of their connection, and whilst dishonesty, abuse and even murder result, you have a genuine affinity for the two characters. Deeply sensual, and intense in its evolution, "Our Paradise" is a movie which transcends description.

It is extremely well written and directed, with powerful performances from its two leading men. Perhaps human desire is at its origin, a dark carnal reality void of real concern for others. As long as one gets what one desires, one will do what one needs to do. Some will never sink to the depravity of Vasilli or Angelo, but will similarly compromise principle and truth at a level which negates one's being. After all, lust, desire, love and relationship are all but one convoluted reality.
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on 29 November 2012
There are enough plotlines and characters in Gael Morel.s latest offering to have expanded into a three part mini series. Now I have nothing against trying to fit within the parameters of a motion picture as much as is informative or entertaining in order to cement the narrative. And I have nothing but admiration for the way this is achieved by Morel. I also have nothing against three part mini series. However, and this is the problem I have with 'Our Paradise'. (and another recent potboiler 'The String' which incidentally I recommend for another brilliant parformance from the underrated Salim Kechiouche) The dynamic of the storeylines within the film is overtaken by the sheer amount we as viewers have to take in. As a consequence, the ending seems rushed and lacks verisimilitude after what has come, in cascades, before it. Or maybe that's just my wishful thinking.
If this puts you off paying for 'Our Paradise', please don't let it. The merits of the film - acting, design, location, music, continuity and above all direction are all successful. Morel's old chum Stephane Rideau plays seriously in a minimalist kind of way. His portrayal is realistic as he acts his age as an ageing rentboy in Paris who comes across a beaten up younger version of what he use to be (Dimitri Durdaine). The latter also gives a winning performance as well as being easy on the eye. I liked his persuasive vulnerability.Beatrice Dalle dominates the screen with the sheer personalty she brings to her character. She must be a director's dream. The plot then expands to include passion, love, jealousy, revenge, mental illness and serial murder! Brilliant just rather rushed. In French with generally excellent subtitles.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 11 October 2012
Our Paradise (Notre Paradis) is the latest film from Gael Morel of `Le Clan' fame. It stars Stephane Rideau (`Presque Rien') as Vassili, an ageing rent guy who cruises the streets of Paris looking for tricks. He is also a dab hand at `finishing his clients off' and I do not mean in a `professional' way - yes he's a murderer. Then one wet, Parisian night he stumbles across a young man who has been attacked and robbed. He decides to help him and ends up taking him home. The boy has no name and says no memory of before he met Vassili.

So they decide to give him a name and hit upon Angelo (Dimitri Durdaine in his big screen debut). They then start a passionate relationship that does not exclude paying clients. Then they start to work as a team, but Angelo is attracting most of the attention and Vassili can't let his own proclivities stay dormant for too long. They end up seeking their paradise which will involve others, with unexpected consequences.

This is a really original piece of cinema, it is acted superbly the shots are framed with the eye of an artist and it is still tasteful, despite some of the less wholesome scenes. We have a plethora of scenarios especially with Vassili's clients and the stories of a number of the characters all told along the way. This is one of those films that you don't even think about looking at the clock, it is paced so perfectly and flows so well; there is some nudity as you would probably expect, but I did not feel any of it is gratuitous. For gay cinema fans or even fans of gay cinema this is an absolute must.
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on 25 February 2013
How far would you go to build a paradise for yourself and the one you love?
Some would go far...Just like the two characters portrayed by S.Rideau and D.Durdaine. First is a middle-aged escort-man and the latter is his younger (much younger) version. They meet, they fall in love, they want to be together no matter what. Their paradise is built on crime. Many crimes.
Not giving away the plot, I will just write that there is no happy-ending to this story.
And the film could have had a subtitle: "Our paradise, their hell".
Good story (although the part of Angelo could have been developed more, I mean we know nothing about his past) and very good acting. I have seen S.Rideau in both "Le clan" and "Presque rein". The older he gets, the better actor he becomes.
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on 21 January 2013
Our Paradise shows the true tragedy of the World of rent boys when they grow in to men and no one wants them anymore. Cast adrift by the tyranny of time that brings maturity and the poverty that follows leads to excessive and murderous means to make a living. Love is found in the oddest of places but ultimately leads to greater acts of violence in a Bonny and Clydesk rampage through the geriatric `johns` of Paris and of France. Graphically sexual and real in its depictions of sex and the World of sex workings in the Parisian suburds and parks, don`t expect a good moral or a happy ending. Beautifully filmed and staged with some excellent acting from the almost entirely male cast.
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on 9 June 2015
A film about a serial killer. It's not a "murder mystery" as there's no mystery -- we see all the murders in all their gory detail. The "romance" that some reviewers enjoy is between the killer and a younger man who becomes his accomplice. The message seems to be that the murders are OK because the killer is upset at being over 30, and all the victims are old or fat or ugly. A repulsive movie.
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on 27 June 2013
I'm not a Fluent french speaker, however this movie captured my attention from the outset, quite extreme scenes occasionally with some compassion in the main story line involving "family life" A well made movie edging on the air of desperation and all that aging, wealth and youth brings to the world on both sides of the viewing podium.
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on 25 May 2014
What is it about Gael Morel's movies that they can get under your skin so? This is a compelling psycho drama, as disturbing as it is absorbing to watch, both fascinating and horrific at the same time. Controversial at times but worth watching all the same, as are all Morel's movies.
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