Paradise: Love

120 minutes 2013

Ulrich Seidl's extraordinary "Paradise" trilogy begins with this 2012 drama that explores sex tourism in Kenya without leering or moralizing; the tone is wry, inquisitive, and disarmingly sympathetic. Seidl and cowriter Veronika Franz spent two years getting to know male hustlers around the resort area where they shot the movie; several of these men act in the film, and they're so natural that one can relate to them even when they're most conniving or naive. The Austrian actresses who play the tourists convey a sad sense of emotional need that complicates one's response to the characters' exploitive behavior. (All of them are overweight and/or past middle age, yet Seidl refuses to portray their sexual desire as grotesque.) The striking compositions mingle childlike curiosity with adult decadence—and natural beauty with garish consumer culture—to provocative, even profound effect. In English and subtitled German and Swahili.

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