›› Lost in Paradise - aka: Hot Boy - noi loan
a film by Ngoc Dang Vu.
2011 | 95 mins | Vietnam.
principal players: Luong Manh Hai / Lam, Ho Vinh Khoa / Khoi, Linh Son / Dong, Hieu Hien / Cuoi, the Smile Man, Phuong Thanh / Hahn, the Prostitute and La Quoc Hung as hustler Long.
Adapted Synopsis: "travelling to Ho Chi Minh City to escape the ingrained homophobia of small town life, twenty-year-old Khoi is soon to find himself befriended by streetwise Dong; a hunky hustler with along with his then boyfriend Lam extends Khoi the hand of friendship, only to rob him of all of his money in the process. Yet dangerous-to-know Dong is no friend to Lam either, having introduced him to hustling his way through life, only to now leave him penniless. Both alone in the world, they struggle to earn a living. Yet fate has a way of dealing its hand and a chance meeting that results with Lam returning to Khoi his lost belongings. Now friends, could they become lovers?
Like many a feature, striking poster work so often promises more than what the film actually delivers and this sadly, is no exception. For here co-writer and director Ngoc Dang Vu annoyingly intercuts his work with a secondary tale, that of the unrelated storyline of a simple-minded "smile man" whose liking for raising a duck, brings him ever closer to the street working girl of his dreams. Clearly playing to the heart of its native country, this additional piece nevertheless rests uneasy in a work of this genre. And that's a shame, given this feature had some serious potential, with the opening sequence in particular laced with a series of lush homoerotic overtones, with the camera forever lingering on Linh Son's muscular torso, workout style, before a set of bare-arsed shower scenes take to the stage.
Yet that's not the only problem. For in a work in which both stories revolve around prostitution, the whole piece is just too modest a production. That said and whilst somewhat reserved on the sexual side of life, this is still a pro-gay piece, as a number of sweet 'n' tender moments between Lam and Khoi beautifully illustrate their deep affection for each other. Only such is destined to be a star-crossed love, as the "once bitten, twice shy" Lam finds himself seemingly unwilling or unable to leave his hustling ways behind, in exchange for the devotion of his boyfriend.
Complete with a set of end credits that detail the true closure of the separate stories and laced with scenes of violence, as the law is literally taken into external hands, this frankly marks a feature that would have been better served as two short films. Assembled into a whole however, they detract from each other, in spite of co-writer and co-lead Luong Manh Hai as Lam delivering a star turn. Yet in a film in which the brutal reality of turning tricks is counterbalanced by a touching subplot of a love, forever unrequited, the real star remains the Vietnamese film industry, one that in this well played, if overly sentimental form is now and to its credit, making films - for the boys. And that has to be applauded.
Gay Visibility - overt.
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek.
Overall - file under ... 3 stars.