After hearing mixed feedback from critics and film programmers, I’ve finally gotten to watch Ngoc Dan Vu’s Lost in Paradise which I find to be a memorable, haunting and beautiful feature that has captured the growing pains of an urban city in a Third World country. It’s also a sexy and queer love story about the disillusionment of modern gay life. Due to a lack of perspective on Third World cinema, one critic has unfairly called it ” the Hello Kitty version of a gay hustler melodrama.” But seriously Mr. Critic, have you ever had to prostitute yourself on the street?
Although the film does have its uneven moments, I have to admit that I still think about the movie weeks after watching it. The film is glossy yet dark. It’s schmaltzy yet brutal. It’s sexy yet sad. As a whole, the film does poignantly portray that disillusionment of modern city life in a developing country whether it is Vietnam or China.
Honestly, I have not seen any films that have portrayed gay hustlers more realistic and humane particularly in the relationship between the jaded hustler and the ideological new kid in town who fall in love with each other. The camaraderie between the hustlers also feels genuine and touching compared with Gus Van Sant’s highly stylized and seminal My Own Private Idaho.
Prostitution has been a sure reality and profession in the world for centuries. For male and female, every profession has its different sets of risks and benefits. What I appreciate about this movie is that it doesn’t romanticize the world of prostitution but kind of just tells it as it is. Lost in Paradise perfectly captures the growing pains of a developing nation with sensuality and beauty.