Review: ‘There’s No Pain in Paradise’

A truly odd funeral film, "There's No Pain in Paradise" combines elements reminiscent of "Orpheus Descending," Jean Genet and modern-day soap opera in an uneven mix. This story of a gay man's cathartic one-night immersion in Monterrey's sexual underworld after his lover dies of AIDS has some fascinating scenes in straight stripper cantinas and recherche gay bars, but it's uncharismatic lead actor, overwrought snake metaphors and unbelievable domestic scenes rein in its full potential. Pic, which, strangely enough, was shot in '93-94, should find a home in gay festivals and some adventurous fest programmers, if people are willing to overlook the provincialism of its gay milieu. We first see Manuel (Fernando Leal) going through a box of memorabilia that belonged to his deceased partner, Juan. That Juan had AIDS is indicated in bizarre hospital flashbacks, in which an always faceless Juan tells Manuel --- decked out in plastic gloves and a face mask --- that he wants him to keep on living after he's departed.

But Manuel has problems: A monkey-suited PR maven, he is in the closet and must repress any signs of his mourning to prevent his wealthy mom (Evangelina Elizondo) and family maid (Virginia Valdiviezo) from discovering his sexual proclivities.

Juan’s cousin and Manuel’s friend Marcos (Miguel Angel Ferriz) is also gay and has trouble coping with the death. The latter, a self-loathing fellow, takes a sleazy ex-con hustler to Juan’s apartment to ease his pain. Manuel arrives just in time to keep Marcos from being sliced open with a broken bottle, but then somehow manages to get the hustler in his car and go with him to the slum hovel the hustler occupies with another lowlife. Setup here already tests one’s patience with incredible plot points, but when Manuel uses the gun Juan had kept in case he wanted to take his own life, the story shifts gears. Manuel goes on the run, motivating his movements among Monterrey’s down-and-outs.

Fortunately, the nocturnal scenes have a violent, visual force that makes this paranoid pic worth watching, despite the tiresomely overworked gun metaphor. Manuel wanders through a club where women performers work onstage on exercise machines, then into a depressing gay bar with a bad talent contest. He hooks up with a female junkie hooker, Bruma King (Claudia Frias, a standout), who gets him out of a jam with crooked cops but who comes on to him against his will. (There is something extremely distasteful about Manuel’s continued horrified reactions to female sexual aggression). Ultimately, he resurfaces into the light, meets up again with Marcos and cleanses his soul with a symbolic act.

The mainly operatic soundtrack is top-notch, and other technical credits are fine.

There's No Pain in Paradise

Mexican

Production

An IMCINE/Producciones Estambul production. (International sales: Maria Eugenia Garzon, IMCINE, Mexico City.) Executive producers, Victor Saca, Georgina Teja. Directed, written, edited by Victor Saca.

Crew

Camera (color), Jorge Medina; music, Oscar Montemayor, Carlos Castillo; art direction, Jaime Hinojosa; sound, Antonio Diego. Reviewed at Guadalajara Film Festival (competing), March 17, 1997. Running time: 90 MIN.

With

Manuel ..... Fernando Leal Marcos ..... Miguel Angel Ferriz Bruma King. ..... Claudia Frias Dona Carlota ..... Evangelina Elizondo Amalia ..... Virginia Valdiviezo
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