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Drunk Sex Orgy: Bangsta’s Paradise

From Europe comes an unusual effort produced by notable Eromaxx subsidiary What begins as an Altmanesque weaving of characters—utilizing a massive ensemble—descends rather rapidly into an incoherent mess of a film. Like any film, it has individual flashes of brilliance—flashes that force a viewer to root for the film’s overall success, against all odds. If the whole film had been a disaster, I’d be less disappointed. As it stands, a feature with such promising moments forces me to mourn its lost potential.

The obvious first question is, “What went wrong?” For that, we have to look at some of the riskier artistic choices. Had these gambits paid off, this kind of film would be revered by critics and audiences alike. We’ll start with the one that makes my job the most difficult: the total lack of opening titles and closing credits. It’s as if the anonymous director is trying to say, “This film exists in another plane of reality—a place where films do not have beginnings or endings.” A veritable möbius strip of orgiastic insanity, Bangsta’s Paradise could be watched on an endless loop with very little clear indication of its start or end.

It’s a bold artistic choice, but what about those involved in the film? With such incredible mise-en-scène and cinematography, I can’t imagine the cast and crew wish to remain anonymous. (Selfishly, I’m perturbed by the decision because I, as a critic, wish to lavish praise on those who did well in the face of such chaotic writing and direction. With little more than a vague list of European adult starts, I find myself at a loss.)

Similarly, the director’s decision to eliminate any attempt at story might seem like an intriguing artistic statement, but all it does is obscure whatever relatable qualities these characters might possess. The director relies, instead, on the unique looks and elaborate costume design (again, someone deserving of praise) to make each character instantly identifiable. A unique, well-utilized device falls flat because I simply don’t know these characters. Why would an odd-looking middle-aged man in a chartreuse dress shirt and magenta velour pants suddenly appear in a club full of 20-somethings, looking to get a blowjob (for which he is easily accommodated)? If the director shot any expositional dialogue scenes, they ended up on the cutting-room floor.

This leads to the director’s final odd aesthetic choice: incoherent sound design. Reminiscent in many ways of the Beach Boys’ forgettable 1965 album Party!, the soundtrack here contains two separate sonic entities: long house songs and generic party background atmosphere. Just as Party!‘s strange “party” atmosphere had literally nothing to do with the songs they played under, the European rhubarbing does nothing to enhance the action on the screen. Where are the pleasureful moans of a blonde in a black cat-suit and black-leather pilot’s hat as she receives the tumescent cock of an exotic lover in a white tracksuit? The unique sounds of sex play an important role in the success of adult films; once again, the director has made an iconoclastic choice and fumbled it.

What little story remains is also botched by our anonymous scribe(s). The erotic nature of the piece builds in somewhat tantalizing ways, but once the genitalia appears, that sense of tension collapses. The bizarre denouement in which every notable actor in the film is covered in some sort of slimy, bubble-bath-like fluid that drops from above—it just doesn’t work despite its clear homage to Blake Edwards’ The Party.

I’ve already praised some of what redeems it: the incredible staging and cinematography and costume design. I’d like to add to that the acting—it must be incredibly difficult to show such wide ranges of emotion without the aid of one’s voice, but the cast pulls it off as well as any silent-era stars—and the production design. I don’t know if they shot this on a soundstage or in a real European socialist sex den; the fact that I don’t know makes it all the more impressive.

To elucidate on the well-blocked, well-lit shots, let me point you to some exquisite examples of composition. The first occurs early in the film, long before we see any ragged, overworked penises. Two blondes gyrate wildly to the surge and pulse of the electronic music, all the while exchanging alluring glances at one another. Between them, in the distance, a third girl has wrapped her legs around a male suitor, who dances while she sits in mid-air, hanging off of him.

Another features three characters receiving blowjobs simultaneously. Rather than cross-cutting, as many traditional adult ventures would, Bangsta’s Paradise employs an impressive deep-focus shot showing the first character close to us in the upper-middle of frame, the second in the middle distance at the upper-left and the third even farther away in the lower-right. Bangsta’s Paradise is well-stocked with equally impressive shot compositions. It’s just too bad they couldn’t construct an intelligible story to go along with it.

I’m hopeful Eromaxx will learn from these mistakes in future productions, but that remains to be seen.

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