AKA: Gannat al Shayateen, The Paradise of Fallen Angels
Genre: Dark Comedy/Crime Drama
Year Released: 1999
Running Time: 79 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 17+
Related Films/Series: Quincas Berro d’Agua
For Fans Of: Rotating Square, Afarit el-Asphalt, Al-Mashbouh, Weekend at Bernie’s, Death and a Funeral
-Fallen Angels Paradise was a bonus film in the Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story DVD set. They are unrelated films.
-One of the characters will be addressed as “Boussy” instead of the subtitles reading “Pussy”. I’m not making this up with the subtitle errors.
-Fallen Angels Paradise was directed by late filmmaker Oussama Fawzi. He’s from Cairo and directed other films such as Afarit el-Asphalt, I Love Cinema, and Ensany Ensany Gedan.
-The corpse of Tabel/Moneer Rasmi is played by Mahmoud Hemida. This is the second film I’ve reviewed with him since he does make an appearance in Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story. He was also in The Other, The Baby Doll Night, and Photocopy among other films over the past few decades.
-Fallen Angels Paradise is actually an adaptation of a novella from Brazilian author Jorge Amado. The original book is called The Double Death of Quincas Water-Bray.
Egypt is getting more attention in Iridium Eye. This will be one, two, now three Egyptian movies I’ve reviewed [laughs like The Count from Sesame Street]. Who ever thought one of my goal countries would get more than one film to be featured on this little blog of mine? This was one film scene I had to get used to, but I do my best to be open-minded when it comes to watching movies from other countries. ArtMattan gave me multiple opportunities when I bought Scheherazade, Tell Me a Story where it was loaded with two bonus films that are from the same country.
Let’s see how this adaptation of a Brazilian story holds up.
Fallen Angels Paradise takes place in Cairo, Egypt where a man is found dead in a bar. It’s strongly implied he drank too much or overdosed on drugs. This corpse in question is Tabel even though his real name is Moneer Rasmi (it’s a long story). Tebel is found dead by his street goon n’er-do-well friends Nonna, Adel, and Boussy after they were busy getting drunk and gambling. They and their other friends in the underworld like criminals and prostitutes mourn his passing. The trio gets an idea to sell his gold teeth for some money. When news of Tabel’s passing gets to his family, his daughter Salwa has to make the arrangements. She isn’t playing around as she wants his body to be presented with a suit, a nice casket, and regular ceramic teeth. Before Tabel got into drinking, gambling, and possibly sleeping around with prostitutes over the past decade, he was a respectable man from an upper-class background. As the family tries to make sure the funeral goes well, Nonna, Adel, and Boussy plan on having one last night out with their fallen friend as they drive around in their jalopy pick-up truck around the city.
Before I really get in-depth with Fallen Angels Paradise, I have to confess something. I thought this movie was a rip-off of Weekend at Bernie’s at first when it came to the characters driving around with a corpse or having it hang out with others. Yes, that’s the same movie where that one dance meme came from for those that don’t remember. After doing some research, I found out that the book the movie is based on came out in 1959 which predates that movie by forty years. Who’s the REAL rip-off now?
Now back to our review.
Fallen Angels Paradise was something that wasn’t as dated as I expected. While it had a grittier film style, there wouldn’t be that many changes made except for cell phones or a bigger internet presence. I do have to give them props for the story looking more modern than one gives credit for. There was some interesting social commentary with the corpse of Tabel. He looks to be in pain and is very unkempt when he is first found dead. After being shaved, cleaned up, and wearing a suit, the corpse is smiling almost as if he’s mocking the upper crusts of society. Also, his corpse laughs with this distant echo effect when the low lives take him around town. The family didn’t want the seedy reputation to be known so they get the regular dental implants and the fancy funeral getup. The music was good with the low-key acoustic bass-lead jazz pieces or the occasional accordion popping in here and there. While I wouldn’t run to get the soundtrack, the score did feel appropriate for the movie. Going back to the film style, this would’ve looked shallow if everything was bright and high-budget. The low lighting and gritty camera work fit the atmosphere of Cairo’s slums and even with the richer parts shown, there’s underlying morbidity going on with the colors. The acting was striking with the over-the-top antics of the three gambling drunkards who were Tabel’s last friends or the more serious and hard-nosed demeanor of the dead man’s family. It really shows the stark contrast of how each group of characters views life.
This Egyptian movie does fall apart multiple times for me. I get the main trio was meant to be scallywags from the jump, but I found them to be quite unlikeable as protagonists even by comedic anti-hero standards. It would be one thing if they had redeemable characteristics (or at the very least were hilarious even when doing bad things) besides some cheap laughs, but I have a very hard time rooting for some random gambling drunkards who try to pawn off gold-plated teeth, literally steal a corpse from a funeral, one of them literally pimp-slapping a woman for a very petty reason, and even give said corpse alcohol. To make matters worse, one of their prostitute friends kisses Tabel’s dead body on the face multiple times (I gagged seeing those scenes). How is this not desecrating a corpse with all these actions? I know the family was uptight and had their own selfish issues, but at least they wanted to make sure he was buried with some semblance of dignity. There wasn’t a lot of character development with the characters as they felt very static or were one-note personalities. The ending was creative from a filming standpoint as the camera turns upside down while the car drives down the tunnel, but it just ends out of nowhere. Were they just going to party with a dead person as they have a joyride under the midnight sky (I’m not sure how I feel making references to Oingo Boingo and Miley Cyrus)? The dark humor just fell flat for me and was morbid for the wrong reasons. There were multiple subtitle typos and grammar errors which got too distracting for me as well.
Fallen Angels Paradise was the worst of the Egyptian movies I saw in that particular DVD set. There was some good acting, music, and effort with social commentary. However, I had a hard time rooting for Tabel’s vagrant friends even if they were supposedly fulfilling his wishes or what they thought he would’ve wanted. I wouldn’t call it the worst movie ever, but I would not recommend this when it comes to international cinema.
Adjustable Point System:
-Add 1-2 points if you like morbid comedic works.
-Add 1-3 points if you enjoy Egyptian cinema.
-Subtract 1-2 points if you want more likable characters.
-The movie has aged decently
-Good acting performances
-Severe protagonist centered morality even by dark comedy standards
-Mediocre and vague ending
-Amateur subtitling work
Final Score: 3/10 points
Content Advisory: Fallen Angels Paradise is definitely not for kids! The language gets extremely strong throughout the movie. There are characters who are prostitutes and there’s sexual innuendo as well as some male gaze shots at female characters. The lead characters drink like crazy and smoke a lot. By smoking, I mean both tobacco and marijuana. There are disturbing scenes that involve a DIY “surgery” taking the teeth out of Tabel or the fact that multiple protagonists desecrate his corpse by making it drink liquor and being kissed by one of their prostitute friends. Some scenes get violent with broken bottles, knives, fisticuffs, and one example of domestic abuse happening.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Fallen Angels Paradise is property of ArtMattan and Facets Video. The screenshot is from YouTube and is property of ArtMattan and Facets Video.