DIRECTOR: Gaël Morel | WRITER: Gaël Morel | CAST: Stéphane Rideau, Dimitri Durdaine, Béatrice Dalle, Mathis Morisset, Didier Flamand, Malik Issolah | France
Notre paradis is a lurid piece of nonsense about an unhappily aging and paunchy Parisian hustler, Vassili (Stéphane Rideau), who’s too dim-witted to figure out a new way to market his goods and services now that the customers are no longer much interested in what he’s got to offer. After strangling a john who made catty remarks about his age, he cruises the Bois de Boulogne where he finds a teenager beaten unconscious. The boy (Dimitri Durdaine), a blond vision straight out of a Jean Cocteau illustration, is in no position to take care of himself so Vassili brings him home, cleans him up, and — since the boy pretends to have amnesia — names him Angelo after the angel tattooed just above his pubic hair. Then they have sex. Then they turn tricks together and fall in love, but Vassili has a habit of offing his alternately queeny and pervy johns and that distresses Angelo, a little, but they love each other and the cash is rolling in so it’s OK. And everything goes well until a john who survived an attack recognizes Vassili which sends the two fleeing in search of their own paradise: first to Lyon and the welcoming arms of a part-time whore and fag hag friend from Vassili’s past, Anna (Béatrice Dalle), and then again when things get sticky in Lyon to the welcoming arms of Vassili’s first john and the man who’s been paying his rent for years, Victor (Didier Flamand), who’s got a gorgeous mountain chalet and an equally gorgeous and hunky Moroccan boyfriend, Kamel (Malik Issolah).
The film is pretty to look at and director Gaël Morel keeps the action moving, but none of it makes any sense dramatically or psychologically — what is Vassili’s problem? Is he a psychopath? And what’s with Angelo? Morel’s vision teeters on the edge of fashionable nihilism but he pulls his punches. Why are all of the johns grotesques, presented either as out and out creepy perverts or old, fat, and effeminate, or some combination thereof? Notre paradis features loads of nudity and sex for those who like that kind of thing, but the acting is variable — Rideau, Flamand, and Issolah turn in creditable performances considering what they had to work with; Dalle still can’t act but mercifully leaves her clothes on; and Durdaine, vacuously pretty though he is, is simply not an actor. And isn’t it about time we call a moratorium on characters like the fag hag sidekick who works as a magician’s assistant?