Igor' Korobeinikov, Petr Krotenko: Accursed Paradise (Prokliatyi rai, 2007)

reviewed by Emily Schuckman© 2008

You think that I’m afraid? It is you that is afraid of me.
It is you who made me this way.
If it wasn’t for you, there wouldn’t be a “Rai”
I gave those girls a chance. I gave them the illusion.
And what did you give them?
You think that I’m afraid of punishment?
I have punished myself—I created this paradise.

Vy dumaete, chto ia boius? Eto vy menia boites.
Eto vy menia sdelali takoi.
He bylo by vas, ne bylo by Raia
Ia davala etim devushkam shans. Ia dala im illiuziiu
A, chto dali im vas?
Vy dumaete ia boius nakazanie?
Ia sama sebe nakazala—sozdala etot rai.

Katia’s final monologue delivered to FSB agents

The most recent testament to enduring popularity of the prostitute character in Russian film is the 2007 NTV television series Accursed Paradise (Prokliatyi rai), produced by Sergei Sendyk. Hailed as “the first Russian erotic serial” (pervyi rossiiskii eroticheskii serial), the forty-eight episode series details the activities inside an elite club/brothel on the outskirts of Moscow. The series aired for the first time in January 2007 and was rebroadcast in summer 2008. Much of the plot revolves around the lives of the brothel's administrators: Katia (Evelina Bledans), the madam, known as “mamka” by the girls; Alik (Vladimir Skvortsov), the vice-director of Rai, afflicted with Oblomov-like ennui; and Kain (Maksim Drozd), the director of security and Katia's love interest. Several of the actors in the film are well-known. Evelina Bledans is both actress and talk show host; Vladimir Skvortsov is a popular stage and screen actor; his love interest, Bella, is played by Belorusian pop star Anzhelika Agurbash.

The series garnered a large audience (23 per cent of the viewing public), a huge success for television station NTV, which has not had such a big hit in prime time in recent times (Borodina). The main song on the soundtrack, “Angels don't live here anymore” (Angely zdes' bol'she ne zhivut) sung by Ul'iana Karakoz has become a pop hit and the series was so popular with audiences that a sequel is to air in fall 2008. Internet sites and chat rooms devoted to the series are also numerous. One site offers detailed episode summaries, a chat thread, downloadable desktop wallpaper and soundtrack as well as links to cast biographies, reviews and DVD purchase information. In chat rooms on this site and others, vigorous discussions about the merits of the serial's treatments of the theme of prostitution are abundant with most viewers (at least those compelled to participate in on-line discussion), praising the series. Kain and Katia's romance was popular enough to be included in an online vote for the “most beautiful couple from a serial” sponsored by Komsomol'skaia Pravda. The fictional couple received twenty-eight percent of the more than 1200 votes cast, but placed second behind Tatiana and Aleksei from the telenovella Alexander Garden (Aleksandrovskii sad) (“My znaem”).

Moscow's elite—politicians, businessmen and celebrities—make up the bulk of the brothel's clients. For several thousand dollars an hour, the men are entertained by beautiful prostitutes, trained in the art of fulfilling fantasies. The opening credits reveal that sex and prostitution are ancient art forms, as old as mankind itself. The connection between the word “Rai” (Paradise) and its alternative meaning “Eden” [1] is made immediately in the opening credits with an image of Eve handing Adam an apple, followed by an animation of a serpent winding itself up a tree (an oil painting of a naked Adam and Eve in the garden also hangs above Katia's desk). The opening credits also play with the euphemism of the prostitute as a nochnaia babochka (butterfly of the night). A montage features a manicured hand placing insect specimens, ranging from butterflies to scorpions, into glass frames and hanging them on a wall for display. This image alludes to both the women's captivity in the brothel and also, with the inclusion of the scorpion and other predatory insects, that many of the women will be something other than gracious butterflies. The latter message is reinforced by the chorus in the opening credits which repeats the chorus of Karakoz's song: “Angels don't live here anymore.”

Other musical lyrics in the series with their grating repetition resonate in the viewer's ear long after the credits roll. Especially indelible are the choruses of two songs. The first repeats only “Sexy, sexy” when anything “sexy” happens on screen (makeovers, showers, skinny dipping, etc.). The high-pitched “Ia garantiruiu rai” (I guarantee you paradise) plays as the credits roll at the end of each episode. The series is low-budget, recycling costumes between girls, relying heavily on flashbacks (replaying often two or three minute scenes from earlier episodes); the final cut also includes shots in which the boom is visible. Despite the contrived nature of many scenes, the often laughable dialogue and amateur acting, the series draws the viewer in with its emotional crescendos and fabricated tension. This is a series created to indulge escapist fantasies of viewers exhausted with the daily grind of their lives.

The series delves into the professional and personal lives of the main characters. It also explores obliquely the lives of the women taken captive in the brothel. In addition to detailing the byt of the brothel, the series chronicles “Rai's” fall from grace by tracking two separate investigations into the club's activities. The first subplot is launched when a young girl is thrown from a car by a client of “Rai” and her mother is subsequently murdered. The mother, Tamara, had recently moved to Moscow to find the girl's father, Nikolai, and inform him he has a daughter (the lovers became separated when Nikolai was sent to Afghanistan). Tamara is killed before she can reveal the truth to Nikolai, but he later finds amongst her belongings a note disclosing her secret. Upon learning about his daughter, Nikolai attempts to find her and avenge Tamara's death. His sister, Marina, joins the rescue effort by posing as a poor, wayward girl in order to get “kidnapped” into “Rai”—she does end up in the club, but, like all of the other women, cannot escape. The second subplot follows the FSB investigation into the brothel and their human trafficking operations. Several other detailed subplots centered on Katia's children, Alik's romantic life and local police corruption persist through the entire series. The convoluted storyline, multiple registries of the narrative and female-centered plot place the series squarely in line with soap opera and melodrama productions. Like many domestically produced serials since the late 1990s, Accursed Paradise includes visual and plot elements identified by Elena Prokhorova as typical of its genre including a blend of Westernization and “a deep connection to Russian roots” (523).

Indeed, the main characters all have western tendencies: Katia speaks English briefly in a few episodes, they use Sony laptops and drink Perrier. Marina practices yoga and loves sushi. Dollars are the only currency—clients casually hand over fresh stacks of hundred dollar bills and Alik and Katia just as casually toss them into their desk drawers. While the characters may not be involved in “honest business,” the message of the film is ultimately that there is no honest business in Russia, thus they are little worse than others. All of the characters in Accursed Paradise, even the most cynical and “western,” are distinctly Russian—superstitious, spiritual and, despite the fact that their living conditions are forced, remarkably communal in their interactions.

Accursed Paradise shares an affinity with other Russian serials. Discussing the eight-part series “Deal,” Sergei Borisov comments on the use of modern Moscow as a backdrop: “The scenes were shot in expensive offices, fashionable boutiques, in a paintball club, an apartment, a casino, a penthouse, a fitness club and special studios.” All of these locations, with the exception of the paintball club, appear in Accursed Paradise , suggesting, perhaps, the development of a popular conception of spaces that define “new” Russia.

Elements of the crime drama, in a watered-down and more ironic form, are evident in the series. The local policemen are corrupt, but bumbling, naïve and lazy—the captain hides a bottle of vodka behind a map in his office and keeps lemons in his desk drawer. Even the two FSB agents are portrayed with humor. One middle-aged agent cares only for his pet guinea pig. He grabs fruit out of his young partner's hand to feed to his beloved pet—much to the chagrin of the younger agent, a skinny, fresh-faced boy who has the eagerness and naïveté of a new cadet. Despite affinities with other Russian television series, the addition of the “erotic” elements (which include nudity, on-screen stripteases and lingerie fashion shows) in Accursed Paradise distinguish it from previous series focused solely on crime or the adventures of well-educated, respectable female detectives.

The series can rightly be labeled as part of “low” television culture, but amid its irony and melodrama are some interesting messages about contemporary Russia. Accursed Paradise distills through the lens of the television soap opera many pertinent social issues: women's economic status, human trafficking, female sexual desire and entrepreneurship in the new Russia. With its countless scenes of women's nude or nearly nude bodies (filmed to maximize, not minimize the exposure of skin), the series indulges male fantasy and encourages the voyeuristic consumption of women's bodies. It also contains elements of female fantasy. Katia and the prostitutes wear beautiful clothing, live in luxury and there is heavy emphasis on makeovers—transforming the ugly duckling street prostitute into the beautiful prostitute-swan who meets the standards of the high-class brothel. Shopping is elevated to an almost pornographic level when Alik goes on an extravagant spree with his fiancé in a marble-floored, sparkling mall. Even the girls in “Rai” get to “shop” for new, supposedly designer, clothes in the closets of the brothel.

It is the fantasy element of the series that led Sergei Semanov to chastise it for being a blatant advertisement for prostitution. While the series does promote a lavish image of life in the brothel, it attempts to balance, often unsuccessfully, the luxury with scenes of forced abortion, physical abuse, murder and suicide—all ironic reminders of the “prokliatyi” attribute of this “rai.” Moskovskaia Pravda emphasizes this aspect of the series: “The task of the project is to highlight a serious social problem: the absence of women's rights in the modern world, when in a large city it is impossible to find protection anywhere” (“Takim byvaet”). The comments capture the dualistic nature of this series which, under its “trash” veneer expresses surprisingly interesting and sometimes poignant cultural messages. Its blend of feminist anxiety, masculine pleasure and social commentary is not dissimilar to that seen in films like Intergirl (Interdevochka, Petr Todorovskii, 1989), Land of the Deaf (Strana glukhikh, Valerii Todorovskii, 1998) and The Spot (Tochka, Iurii Moroz, 2006).

Prostitutes' Byt

Accursed Paradise creates an image of the women's daily lives in the brothel that is far less progressive that either Aleksandr Kuprin's The Pit (Iama, 1909-14) or The Spot , with their detailed naturalism, opting instead for a portrayal that makes every effort to normalize their situation and make their lives seem good, if not desirable. The occasional flare-ups of emotion, drama and violence are not enough to mitigate the images of luxury and are not naturalistic enough to contain the same aversion to prostitution that a film like The Spot or Lilya 4-Ever (dir. Lucas Moodysson, 2003) inspires.

The women come to “Rai” involuntarily—scouted out by a man who works at the market, arrested and booked on false charges and sold to Katia and Alik by the arresting officers. Once approved for service—the girls are given a makeover, fed well and emerge meeting the club's aesthetic standards. The series focuses on only a few trysts with clients—never showing actual sex, but detailing the process of the girls getting their makeup applied and clothing chosen by a stylist; they sip champagne with clients and wake the next morning under satin sheets, seemingly happy and rested. In a few instances, the women resist their clients—these are the girls who are already portrayed as trouble-makers. Most are very professional. One is even fortunate enough to have her client fall in love with her and pay $50,000 to buy her out of the brothel. The rest live under lock and key, constantly watched by the security guards on a closed-circuit camera system. Those who are out of line are either put in solitary confinement for several days or, in the case of two particularly vile women, murdered. The frequent use of these hidden cameras creates a double-voyeurism for the viewer—watching the women being watched. Though prisoners in the brothel, the girls have absolute freedom within its walls and spend much of their time gossiping, swimming in the indoor pool, visiting the sauna or walking around the extensive territory.

The series does little to engage with issues of venereal disease and violence. The girls visit the brothel doctor weekly for inspections and shots, but sexually transmitted diseases are never discussed directly. Scenes with the doctor are also disturbing. The girls flirt with him, trying to look sexy in the examining chair. The medical voyeurism in these scenes—the women's feet in the gynecologist stirrups and the doctor “inspecting” under a vanity sheet is downright bizarre. Violence is portrayed, but only in one primary instance—when a rogue client (tattooed and pierced) lures Marina into the S&M room and beats her nearly to death. The camera does not pull away from the beating and, in later episodes, the scene is shown three times in flashback. Her security-guard boyfriend, Bumer, spots the beating on the brothel's cameras and Marina is rescued—the client fined $100,000. The masochist's defense of his actions captures a very important reality for the prostitute. He rants: “I paid! She is a prostitute—it is okay if I want to fuck her…if I want to beat her”. The series engages little more with this statement and with violence in general, though it roundly portrays this man's actions as deplorable and the event as an anomaly.

The women in “Rai” are insulated from most of the risk of being street prostitutes and their lives are certainly enviable to some. To justify their imprisonment, the series offers an image of what their lives would be like if they were not in the brothel. Three of the main prostitute characters (Klepa, Alla and Efa) discuss their childhoods. All have “typical” stories that include impoverished families, abandonment, orphanages, living on the streets and selling themselves in train stations. This series, despite its frequent use of flashbacks, does not, like The Spot, return to those dark times, opting instead to remain focused on the luxury of the girls' present surroundings.

Marina later encourages these three women to imagine what their lives would be like if they were “free.” Klepa interjects: “I don't want to be free, I'm afraid of being out there” (“Ia na vole ne khochu, Ia tam boius”). Efa responds cynically: “Where did you see freedom? All of our Russia is bought up”. Efa's comments reveal a reality that the wealthy and educated Marina cannot possible understand from her position in one of the sparkling new apartment buildings in Moscow. The other girls are outsiders to this prosperity and, like the women of The Spot, are able to provide a clear perspective on social reality. As in The Spot, the message is that, in the morass of Russian capitalism, everyone's freedom is compromised. Accordingly, there is little “legitimate” work—one has to sell herself in some way to succeed. Thus, prostitution becomes just a more literal manifestation of this dominant reality, making being a prostitute in the club a desirable position.

Gender

The series promotes an image of the masculine ideal. Men are the automatic heroes: Kain's sole focus is “to protect the woman” (zashchitit' zhenschinu); Nikolai devotes himself to rescuing his sister and avenging his murdered lover; even the kick-boxing Marina breaks into tears without Bumer's protective embrace. Men are also the sexual heroes. In addition to the clients' indulgent fantasies, Bumer's “conquering” of the fiercely independent Marina and Kain's sexual power over his boss, Katia, reveal that even the most self-realized women are powerless when it comes to love or sex. The men are also promoted as devoted and doting providers, loyal to their women (quite distinct from their clientele). Alik is hopelessly in love with the beautiful Bella; Kain continually asks Katia to marry him and dreams about helping her raise her three children; Bumer brings Marina novels, flowers and homemade sandwiches to express his devotion, even taking up reading as a hobby to appeal to her intellectual nature. These men are honest, fit, do not drink excessively and are overall models of strength and confidence. These are men in the image of Putin-style manhood (despite their dalliances with running the brothel).

While the majority of the prostitutes are flat and predictable characters, the heroine, Katia, is engaging and dynamic. She offers one of the more complex, contemporary, and even progressive models of Russian womanhood. Physically, she is an Angelina Jolie look-a-like, with her long dark hair, lean body and megawatt smile. Though in her forties, she looks as young as some of the prostitutes and is lithe, sexual and fashionable. She is also vulnerable, emotional and prone to tears when worrying about her family. Simultaneously, she is strong, acutely intelligent and extremely competent as the head of the brothel. Katia is an interesting blend of villainess and feminist heroine—at the same time vile, impressive and sympathetic.

Svetlana Fedotova calls her “cruel, cynical and calculating”. She is all of these things. She is also controlling, manipulative and cold, quietly ordering her son's pregnant girlfriend Zhenia kidnapped and her fetus aborted. To ensure that the girl will not return to her son's life, she sells Zhenia to a human trafficker and has her shipped to Turkey. She justifies her field of work by claiming to have saved the girls in the club from a despairing life and offering them a comfortable living, good food and a taste of glamour.

In addition to being a seller of female flesh—she frequently refers to the women as “fresh meat” (svezhoe miaso) or “merchandise of the best quality” (tovar vysshego sorta); she is also a single mother of three attempting to balance her career with her family life. Katia struggles with her children's problems, her son becomes a drug addict and her daughter is raped, constantly taking on the blame for these pains and lamenting her lack of time to both parent and support them financially. Though her means are often irrational and ultimately cause more harm than good, viewers may identify with Katia's attempts to keep her children focused on school and their careers instead of marrying and tying themselves to a family. Katia is also an empathetic character because her concern for her children is motivated by her own experiences and failures. After her alcoholic husband left her with their three children and no money, she apparently attempted many jobs before finally finding success at “Rai.” Her mother is the primary caretaker for the children, often consulting Katia via cell phone, a mode of parenting that Katia guiltily calls “child rearing by telephone” (telefonnoe vospitanie).

Katia also frequently espouses distinctly feminist ideas about prostitution, the position of women in society and her own circumstances which have brought her to her current position. She sees little difference between the captive wife and the prostitute, explaining to one new arrival that most married women are not even sexually satisfied with their husbands. She also sees her life, bound by the obligations of work and family as little different from the life of an imprisoned prostitute. Reacting to Marina's protests about being held captive, Katia states wanly: “My dear girl, I have been sitting almost my whole life under lock and key, it's just that my room is a bit bigger than yours. Other than that, there is no difference”. This viewpoint underscores her conception that, in a way, every woman is made to be a prostitute. She places all of the blame for women's status as sexual objects on men: “What, you think that all women are whores. Who made us into these? Men. As long as there is a buyer, there will be merchandise”. Katia would likely not identify herself as feminist, or be embraced as a model of feminist ideals, but she does present an interesting hybrid of femininity, patriarchy and resourcefulness that creates a dynamic character and an interesting model of the feminine business woman that is not unlike Ania in The Spot or even Iaia and Rita in Land of the Deaf.

Biznes

Katia does not delude herself about the nature of her work, noting matter of factly while accepting money from a client: “Business is business” (Biznes est' biznes). For Katia, running the brothel is simply a job, an expedient way to build the financial capital she perceives is needed to provide for her children and ensure their future success. She sees the world with clear eyes, blatantly acknowledging the moral emptiness of her profession, but remaining coldly realistic about the structure of society which privileges men and objectifies women. She sees participating in the more blatant trade of sex as a prudent and practical path.

Katia is also shrewdly realistic when it comes to money. She makes this clear in a conversation with Alik in which he expresses his desire to rid himself of the moral burdens of running the brothel in favor of a simpler, and less lucrative, life: “It is funny to hear when people say, ‘money won't buy you health'—you can buy it, and how! The best doctors, the best clinics, you can have everything with money. Of course money isn't a goal in itself, but without it you will go nowhere”. Katia's cold assessment about the importance of money in contemporary Russia carries through similar critiques from The Spot and Land of the Deaf. It also legitimizes prostitution as a regular part of this new economy.

When Katia is led off in handcuffs at the end of the series, the audience not only feels sympathy for her and may closely identify with her anger at the state for her ultimate fall. Her final monologue (quoted in the epigraph above) reinforces this. The speech is delivered to male FSB agents—representatives of both their sex and the government in general. She blames them as men, and as representatives of the paternal state organization, for using women to satisfy their needs and offering them nothing more than objectification.

Human Trafficking

One of the more interesting aspects of Accursed Paradise is the way the series negotiates the issue of human trafficking. It offers a somewhat sensationalized, but nevertheless accurate picture of trafficking situation in Russia. Avoiding morally laden stories, focused on the personal tragedy of trafficking, Accursed Paradise places the phenomenon in the context of a business transaction. The series continually justifies the legitimacy of prostitution (forced prostitution at that) within the club, representing it as a normal part of life, as business. Thus, human trafficking becomes just one step from that—a natural and, from a financial perspective, logical business decision. With the aid of a few corrupt local policemen and a good relationship with a trafficker, Ali Baba, who transports the girls to Turkey, Katia and Alik set up a simple system following the rules of supply and demand. It becomes a transaction like any other. Many of the girls delivered by the police are kidnapped from jail after being arrested for prostitution, thus perpetuating the stereotype that there is little difference between the prostitute and the trafficked woman.

Though the trafficking business is ultimately what allows the FSB to infiltrate Rai (arresting Katia and, seemingly, mortally wounding Kain), this act is not an effective condemnation. The depiction of the local police reveals the depth of corruption in the law enforcement world and even casting the FSB as heroes does not inspire the viewer that systemic vice will end. As the FSB is motivated to bust the trafficking ring, not the prostitution operations, it seems that the main crime Katia and her cohorts committed was not selling the women to “their own” (Russians), but sending them abroad to be consumed by foreigners. The display of the FSB enforced rule of law also comes too late—the last half of the final episode— to deliver a moralizing message. The viewer has spent forty-seven episodes getting wrapped up in the tumultuous lives of the characters, building empathy for their situation (and even envying the captive girls) to feel victory in their defeat. We are too busy weeping for Kain and Katia to cheer on the Special Forces.

Striptease culture[2]

The series is an indulgence of both men's and women's fantasies. With its nudity, glamour, ironic cynicism and extravagant spending, it serves as a good example of what Brian McNair calls “porno-chic.” McNair says cultural productions that fall under this label are a prime contributor to the “ pornographication of the mainstream ” (61; emphasis in original). Indeed, there is nothing in the series that can be called hard porn—there is no sex, the fantasy scenes are more dress-up games than naturalistic enactments and even the violence, with the exception of Marina's beating, is rather tame. One critic even lamented that one could “see more in the Moscow subway than in the ‘first erotic Russian serial'” (“Byt prostitutki”). Visually, the images in the series do little to press the boundaries of bodily exposure. The frequent depictions of women in lingerie, close-ups of them in g-strings, full-body nude shots and slow-motion strip scenes no longer shock the Russian audience—these are conventional and (seemingly) benign images.

The male body is not exposed in an equal way. Although Kain is frequently shown shirtless and Bumer appears briefly in one scene fully naked, their bodies are not meant for sustained consumption. The male “stylist” who seems stereotypically gay in his mannerisms turns out to be voraciously heterosexual, establishing quickly a sexual relationship with one of the prostitutes, Klepa. The number of scenes displaying the women naked far outnumbers scenes with naked men—even most clients are shown fully clothed. If porno-chic can be seen, as McNair argues, as “an index of sexual maturation,” then Russia certainly proves that it has fully matured, at least in respect to the consumption of female sexualized bodies.

Accursed Paradise, even if unsuccessfully, does at least attempt an expansion of sexual discourse, one of the hallmarks of Porno-chic. While Accursed Paradise is surely guilty of choosing its subject matter in order to garner good television ratings, it does certainly represent both a product of social demand and attempts a superficial exploration of sex and sexuality. The television series explores, often in a tongue-in-cheek manner, the fantasies of their male clients' sexual preferences which include: S&M; Sleeping with a Marilyn Monroe look alike, young boys, schoolgirls, mothers and daughters, and exotic belly dancers. The series creates a visual and rhetorical space for these fantasies to exist and to be spoken aloud—thus expanding the boundaries of sexual discourse.

Despite this minimally progressive element of expanding “legitimate” sexual pleasures, access to sexual fantasy is offered only to men and only in the context of paid sex. By confining these “adventures” to the brothel, they are not given full legitimization and remain something off-limits in the average person's home. These fantasy role-plays are not things that men do with their wives in part because their wives are “good” women and only “bad” women would be part of this sort of debauchery. The prostitutes remain sexual objects available for new and exciting “adventures”—Klepa, Efa and Alla, enjoy their lives and are excited by the thrill of sex. They perpetuate the idea that prostitutes are nymphomaniacs. Efa painstakingly designs an S&M room, relishes the black leather outfit she purchases for her new role and is positively giddy when a client finally takes advantage of her services—this is her fantasy as much as it is his.

In contrast to the deviant “bad” girls, Katia and Marina remain “good,” monogamous lovers devoted to their boyfriends (Katia to Kain and Marina to Bumer) [3]. When they have sex it is decidedly tame and includes none of the exaggerated décor and hoopla associated with the prostitutes' transactions. These women are both desirable and sexually desiring, but any progressive critique their sexuality may offer is undermined by their association with the brothel. Bumer does not know that Marina is not a prostitute, thus he may be fulfilling his own fantasies of “rescuing” the “fallen” woman with their relationship. Katia is also compromised by her association with the brothel and her obvious indifference to sexual norms and “morals.” Their monogamous relationships—potentially leading to marriage—do not counter the series' broader promotion of the prostitute as a legitimate “resource” for married men.

Conclusions

The popularity of Accursed Paradise, the accepted and blatant exposure of women's nude or scantily clad figures, and the open presentation of prostitution as a business indicates the normalization of prostitution in Russian culture. It also illustrates the enduring popularity of the prostitute character in Russian visual culture from Intergirl to today. The series offers a bleak picture of a Russia in which everyone and everything is corrupt and thus refuses to point fingers at any one person or practice as ethically or morally wrong—“meaning” is obfuscated with indifference. Despite the obvious shortcomings of the decidedly “low brow” approach to both filmmaking and plot, the series is worth watching for its insights into the sexual underworld of the elite and its subtle effort to engage with relevant social issues in Russia.

Emily Schuckman
Montclair State University

Comment on this review via the LJ Forum

Notes

1] To reinforce this connection, in the forthcoming sequel, Katia, Kain and Alik will establish a new brothel: “Eden”.

2] The header is taken from the title of Brian McNair's book: Striptease culture: sex, media and the democratization of desire.

3] Marina remains exempt from sleeping with clients because Nikolai has paid to be her “exclusive” client—using their sessions to plot escape, not to have sex.

 


Works Cited

Borisov, Sergey. “Life of a Serial,” Moscow News, 3 March 2006.

Borodina, Arina. “Obshchestvo/Telelidery.” Kommersant 28 Feb. 2007.

Fedotova, Svetlana. “Raiskie angely na greshnoi zemle.” Vecherniaia Moskva 25 Jan. 2007

McNair, Brian. Striptease Culture: sex, media and the democratization of desire, London: Routledge, 2002

“My znaem, kto luchshe vsekh igraet liubov',” Komsomolskaia Pravda, 25 April 2007.

Prokhorova, Elena. “Can the Meeting Place Be Changed? Crime and Identity Discourse in Russian Television Series of the 1990s,” Slavic Review , 62.3 (2003): 512-524.

Semanov, Sergei. “Iz zhizni ‘Raiskikh prostitutok', ili soblazn malykh sikh,” Slovo 18 (2007).

“Takim byvaet rai.” Moskovskaia Pravda 17, 26 Jan. 2007

 


Accursed Paradise, Russia, 2007
Directors: (first season) Igor’ Korobeinikov; (second season) Petr Krotenko
Screenplay: Elena Volodina, Anatolii Golovkov and Konstantin Glushkov
DoP: Grigorii Rudakov
Production design: Aleksandr Kudriavov, Valerii Semenov
Cast: Evelina Bledans, Maksim Drozd, Vladimir Skvortsov and Anzhelika Agurbash.
Producer: Sergei Sendyk,
Production: Piramida
http://www.proklyatyray.net/

Igor' Korobeinikov, Petr Krotenko: Accursed Paradise (Prokliatyi rai, 2007)

reviewed by Emily Schuckman© 2008

Updated: 30 Sep 08