Monday, March 7, 2016

The Paradise Suite [2015]

MPAA (NR would be R)  Fr. Dennis (4 Stars) 

IMDb listing listing (W. Los) review* (M. Iwema) review* (F.  Melchers) review* (

The Hollywood Reporter (D. Young) review
Variety (D. Harvey) review

The Paradise Suite [2015] [IMDb] [CEu] (written and directed by Joost van Ginkel [IMDb] [CEu]) is a DUTCH / SWEDISH / BULGARIAN coproduction that OPENED the 19th (2016) Chicago European Union Film Festival held at the Gene Siskel Film Center here in Chicago.

Set largely in Amsterdam (though also in part in Sofia, Bulgaria), the film is organized in Crash [2004]-like fashion following four loosely intervening story-lines that challenge both the residents of Amsterdam as well as Europe in general with regards to their basic values / priorities.

The stories followed are those of:

(1) Jenya (played by quite wonderfully / convincingly by Bulgarian actress Anjela Nedyalkova who could honestly remind many Readers here both in her acting here and in her career of Penélope Cruz in her early years) a bright-eyed aspiring model from Sofia who arrives in Amsterdam along with two girlfriends thinking they were being hired to do a photo-shoot only to discover that the three had been _bought_ (!!) by Ivica (played magnificently in utterly schizo/sociopathic fashion by Serbian born actor Boris Isakovic) an Amsterdam residing, Mercedes driving "Family Man" / "Business Man" / Mobster / Former War Criminal (?!) from somewhere in the Balkans, who kisses his beautiful _half-his-age_ Russian born wife and infant son as he goes off to work in the morning, proceeds to preside over _the raping_ of "his newly arrived prostitutes to be" by his younger thugs in the afternoon and finishing-off the evening managing a few of his upper end "Gentlemen's Clubs" the swankiest with a "Paradise Suite" after which the film is named.

(2) Yaya (played again wonderfully by Isaka Sawadogo born in Burkina Faso) an immigrant / migrant from Africa who's just trying to make a more-or-less honest living cutting / packing flowers, mostly roses, working in a giant covered, artificially-lit "flower factory" at the outskirts of Amsterdam.  He finds himself in immediate need of a fair amount of extra cash when he discovers that his neighbor (in a truly quite awful makeshift housing tenement for immigrants of questionable legal status) a single mother, also from Africa with two young sons, stands to be thrown out of _her apartment_ unless she quickly pays-up 7 months of back-rent in a week.  To help this singel mother with her two young sons out, Yaya, who's caught unwanted attention of the landlord as a result has got to find some cash quickly.  Where?  A somewhat embarrassed friend directs him to ... Ivica ...

(3) Seka (played again magnificently with focused rage by Serbian born actress Jasna Djurcić) a nurse originally from Bosnia who has "Ivica's number," who indeed had left a lucrative job in Berlin to go to Amsterdam after she heard from the grapevine that he was "HIDING" IN PLAIN SIGHT THERE to finally get Interpol to arrest him / put him behind bars, convinced that he was one of the leaders responsible for the 1995 Massacre at Srebrinica at the height of the Bosnian War.

and finally (4) Stig (played again quite magnificently in appropriate "well born" / "comfortable" / "clueless" fashion by Magnus Krepper) a life-long resident of Amsterdam and conductor of one of the city's orchestras.  Focused on his work, he is largely clueless about the struggles of people like forced-into-prostitution Jenya, simply largely "invisible" migrants like Yaya, or that ARGUABLY WAR CRIMINALS (!) like Ivica were actually _running_ the prostitution rackets in his city's notorious Red Light District.  However, even at home, he doesn't realize that his 8-10 year old son Lukas (played by Erik Adelöw) is starting to have some fairly significant psychological issues / issues at school.

All four of these stories come together on the night of Stig's big "opening of the new season concert."

Much, often simultaneously shocking / heart-rending ensues.

A powerful film that certainly deserved its OPENING SLOT at the Chicago EU Film Festival this year!  Good job folks!  Very, very good job! 

* Foreign language webpages are most easily translated using Google's Chrome Browser. 

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