Main cast: Stéphane Rideau (Vassili), Dimitri Durdaine (Angelo), Béatrice Dalle (Anna), Didier Flamand (Victor), Malik Issolah (Kamel), and Mathis Morisset (Little Vassili)
Director: Gaël Morel
Notre Paradis (Our Paradise) sure isn’t going to rock the stereotype that French movies celebrate full frontal nudity as art. This movie goes better than that. Under the pretense of being a dark romantic thriller, this one is actually reminiscent of the exploitation movies of the 1960s and 1970s. It is basically a montage of sordid sex with a thin pretense of a story to hold everything together. Since the male leads are so beautiful, it is so easy to just lose myself in the scenery and enjoy the view.
Stéphane Rideau puts on some weight as befits his role as a hustler who is past his peak, but just looking at him, I don’t know if I can peg the phrase “past his peak” at him without bursting out laughing. I hate to say this, because it makes me look like a drooling fool, but he must be one of the most gorgeous guys to ever grace the screen. Anyway, his character Vassili is a loner who finds his calling as a hustler, as he enjoys sex in all forms. Unfortunately, now that he has passed the dreaded 30, he finds that he is no longer the apple of the eye where lonely men in need of some company are concerned. In fact, they often treat him rudely now, mocking his efforts to pass himself off as 20 and even rejecting him once they realize that Vassili uses a very old photo on his online profile. When the movie opens, Vassili can only grit his teeth as his latest client, an out of shape middle-aged man, speaks as if he is in the same boat as the client when it comes to virility. Vassili ends up strangling that man.
Shortly after, Vassili encounters a young and gorgeously blond man who is injured after what seems like a beating. This lad claims to have no memory of his past and name. Vassili takes him in and they soon begin a sexual relationship that quickly turns into something deeper. Because this lad sports a tattoo of an angel on his pelvis, Vassili calls him Angelo. Soon these two men are claiming to be in love. Together, they hustle, although the client often requests the services of Angelo alone, causing Vassili to grit his teeth in bitter rage. It isn’t long before Vassili begins killing their clients. Angelo is at first reluctant to aid Vassili in killing their marks (he’s fine with everything else, though), but he soon becomes a willing accomplice in the name of love.
Dimitri Durdaine is mostly naked here, but Mr Rideau isn’t afraid to drop his trousers when the occasion arises. This movie is pretty much a sequence of sex scenes (including several bisexual ménage à trois moments) followed by murder and interspersed with loving shots closing in on Mr Durdaine’s almost profane beauty. Yet, this movie isn’t solely artistic softcore pornography in action – there are some superficial but adequate depths to the characters, such as the well-portrayed sense of humiliation Vassili experiences with each rejection and humiliating mocking from his clients.
The twisted romance between Angelo and Vassili does have its share of moments, with some decent erotic chemistry sizzling between Angelo and Vassili. On the surface, Angelo seems like the typical more emotionally vulnerable twink and Vassili the more experienced and more jaded older man – a stereotypical gay couple, in other words. But Angelo turns out to be as amoral as Vassili, and in many ways, Vassili’s insecurities about his age actually makes him the more emotionally vulnerable character of the two.
Not that it matters, because the thin plot barely matters in this story. It’s all about beautiful men doing naughty things in the name of offering the audience a most guilty sort of voyeuristic thrill. Notre Paradis is enjoyable enough if I fast forward the talking parts and pay more attention to the naughty scenes, but really, it’s actually a somewhat decent movie if I pay attention to the subtitles. But maybe that’s because Mr Rideau and Mr Durdaine are too gorgeous for words, and it’s always easier to enjoy a bad movie if there are beautiful people constantly naked on the screen. I don’t know.
Oh what the heck, you’re going to watch this anyway for the male nudity and man-on-man sexy moments, so does it really matter whether the movie is good? The two main guys are hot. In instances such as this, that is all that matters.