Reminiscent of Lina Wertmuller's Swept Away (1974), but uninspired, trivial, and unbearable to watch, Kamei Boru's Paradise (2005) will hardly impress those looking for an engaging and intelligently-scripted cinema. Attractively lensed vistas occasionally draw away from the sloppy narrative but aren't enough to mask what appear to be major loopholes in this made-for-cable production.
A beautiful and ambitious young reporter (Machida Shion, Inugami) returns home to campaign for a seat in the National Party. She is convinced that hard work will pay off. A less than successful fisherman (Sakaki Hideo, Versus) with plenty of personal issues isn't looking to the future - his life has been a journey full of disappointments. When the two find themselves stranded on a desolate island something strange will happen.
Using film to challenge traditional societal status quos while copying the work of other directors isn't an unusual "treat". Hollywood studios do it all the time (the borrowing that is). They pour tons of money into better scripts, they hire better actors, and end up producing better versions of films no one but those who hate to read find original. This has been a formula we have come to expect from the powerful men in charge with our entertainment needs.
But what happens when non-Hollywood directors choose to follow the same route? Are they more successful? Or, are they as painfully transparent in their efforts as Hollywood is?
Having seen Kamei Toru's Paradise I am left with little, if any, doubt that in cinema borrowing and improving someone else's vision is hardly a smart endeavor. If anything, it is rather annoying, especially when its flaws are obvious, impossible to ignore. It is also an exercise in futility bound to be scrutinized more, analyzed more, leading to nothing but uncomfortable questions and few words of approval.
Now to the point - Paradise isn't a terrible film. In fact, under different circumstances this reviewer would have likely embraced some of its content and argued that there is enough to warrant a late night viewing. As noted earlier there are some beautiful camera shots and the extra zesty forays into carnal pleasure are not as poor as I have seen in other ambitious films. The problem is, with this script, and the painfully obvious parallels with Lina Wertmuller's classic picture, Paradise simply misfires on so many levels that it is impossible to ignore its flaws.
Structurally the film also collapses before it even picks a direction. Is this a socio-political satire? It could be with a substantial amount of tweaking, some major editing. Is this a romantic picture? The two polarized protagonists have their moments of spiritual and physical intimacy but what leads to it is so banal and clichéd that it hardly sets the right tone for romance. Is this an erotic-melodrama? Let's just say that if it was meant to be one then its key-ingredients are impressively underdeveloped.
How Does the DVD Look?
Even though the back cover for this disc indicates that the print for Paradise has been enhanced for widescreen TVs what we have here is nothing but a letterboxed presentation in 1.78:1. The actual transfer is quite poor as well - there is plenty of macro-blocking which is painfully distracting during the night scenes, the color scheme is notably off (the prevalent green tint during the daylight scenes is something that I am absolutely convinced does not belong here, as is the continuous flickering). Detail is also questionable and even though the film was shot with a digital camera one could hardly see the advantages such an approach to filmmaking typically offers. Quite frankly this treatment isn't suitable for VHS let alone DVD.
How Does the DVD Sound?
Japanese DD track with optional English, white, subtitles is what the distributors for this release have provided. Dialog is largely easy to follow and I could not detect any disturbing pop-ups, hissings, etc. The limited amount of ambient music comes off the speakers without any issues to report either.
Other than a trailer for the main feature there is absolutely nothing else to be found here.
Aside from the disastrous presentation which is enough of a reason to avoid this release Paradise is also a film of questionable value. The plot is trivial, the execution uninspired, and its message, if there is any worthy of recognition, too weak to justify spending nearly two hours in front of your TV. Do something more productive with your free time. Skip It.