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BOYS ON FILM 12 – DVD Review
November 24, 2014
Peccadillo Pictures has done it again. The UK distribution company with a keen eye on fresh voices in the realm of art-house, LGBT and world cinema have just released the latest installment of Boys On Film, their popular anthology series that showcases gay-themed short films from around the world, usually collected together around a common thematic thread.
This new volume, number 12 in the series, is titled Confession and it’s easy to see why: all the nine shorts included in the collection deal with concealed secrets and in case you’re wondering, it’s not always the closeted kind. I must confess (pun intended) that as a whole, I found this new chapter less engaging than the previous one from both a storytelling and filmmaking standpoint but it’s always worth checking out as there’s no denying you always wind up discovering some new interesting and promising talent both behind and in front of the camera.
As much as I appreciated the concise running time that’s usually the most efficient way to handle the format (it’s called short film after all) this debut from the man who’s been consultant on Travis Matthews’ I want Your Love and Interior Leather Bar doesn’t accomplish what it sets off to do. The idea is to capture the sense of emptiness a hot hunky guy experiences when back home alone after his gym session: inner feelings vs. the superficiality of appearances. However, the execution feels very student film-like and I just didn’t buy for a second the guy shedding what’s evidently a fake tear.
I’d already had the pleasure of seeing this cute film back in the spring as part of a short film program at the BFI Flare, The London LGBT Film Festival. Seeing it again confirmed my appreciation and just as I considered it my favourite within that festival program I happened to also find it the best offering in this volume 12 of Boys On Film. A guy wakes up hungover in his apartment on the morning after his 30th birthday party only to find a 17 years old boy who came back with him. The film’s strength lies in its simplicity and the funny script grabs your attention throughout, a rare thing in short films where usually dialogue is sparse. But the banter at the core of the film is exactly what wins you over. It feels honest, authentic and in the end, aimed at conveying a positive message.
Showboy – 2014, dir. Samuel Leighton Dore (Australia) 15 mins
Australia is an underrated scene of great filmmaking talent and the previous Boys On Film collection also included an Australian short that turned out to be my favourite of that bunch. Showboy, albeit totally different in tone and scope, is quite impressive first and foremost on a filmmaking level. The cinematography is gorgeous and generous on atmospheric wide shots whilst the fragmented editing gives the piece a syncopated rhythm that perfectly conveys the protagonist’s inner state. Julian, that’s his name, is an aspiring young football player who takes care of his widowed and constantly drunken father. He’s the quiet and solitary type and it’s easy to infer he harbors a secret though it’s not exactly what you’d expect.
Without any doubt the oddest, most original and unpredictable film of the bunch and not just because it’s an animated piece. That surely adds value to it and provides a nice break from the more typical flow of the collection. In what looks like the Arizona desert a car speeds down the road and a cruise patrol engages in pursuit. What happens when the officer reaches the car is unspeakable of without revealing the insanely unexpected twist(s). Stylish CG animation and slick direction complete the picture whilst a weirdly allusive sexual tension throughout adds a unique flavour that needs to be experienced in order to be understood.
A closeted Hollywood star returns to his hometown for a high school reunion where he hopes to reconnect with the love he left behind but things don’t go exactly as planned. The premise is interesting and relevant to today’s scene where sadly God only knows how many Hollywood actors conceal their true selves in order to keep their careers. The film feels like a teaser for a potential feature rather than a fully fledged short and the performances are not very convincing. Still the intent of the piece is commendable and it’s something that should be developed.
Despite being even shorter than the opening film in the collection, Deflated manages to make the most out of its running time with its very simple yet effective concept. A child is at the store with his dad and wants to spend his allowance on a bouncy ball. However there are only pink ones stocked in the ball cage, except for a green ball that’s deflated. Deciding whether he should take a pink yet functioning ball or a green yet deflated one is maybe a bit on the nose as a metaphor of the boy’s internal dilemma for obviously deeper feelings about his identity but the execution is tight and charming.
A compelling and thought-provoking idea is at the core of this interesting film that unfortunately misses the mark because of its too vague ending and far from convincing performances, especially from one of the two leads. The story follows 17 years old Matteo who plays drums in his local parish’s band, conducted by the church’s priest, Don Massimo. Matteo is going through an identity crisis as he realizes he has feelings for Don Massimo who’s always there for him, ready to listen and help. But the inevitable moment of confrontation with the priest about his feelings inevitably opens up the Pandora’s box of conflict. Once again this is a case of a premise with great potential that functions more as a teaser for a feature film. The ending is rushed and unsatisfying but the performances are the biggest let down. The film is in Italian and since that happens to be my mother tongue I was able to realize even more how especially the actor who plays Don Massimo fails at coming across authentic and believable, particularly in the tense moments of confrontation. The teenage actor who plays Matteo seems to be more in control of his performance at first but in those pivotal scenes of confrontation he loses touch with it, most likely dragged down by his counterpart’s poor acting. However let’s not forget there’s a director behind the camera and clearly he had a major responsibility since his actors look like they’re acting but he didn’t realize it.
Belgium is another venue that’s been producing interesting talent lately and this short film definitely confirms that. I’d already seen Human Warmth at BFI Flare as well and it hadn’t exactly wooed me but surely caught my attention for its artistic quality. It portrays a break up with one of the parties involved not wanting to give up and making a last attempt at keeping his lover or maybe just trying to get break-up sex. Either way their confrontation is intercut with some sort of dream/fantasy sequence where they are naked in the woods and engage in physical contact that feels like a performance art version of sex. It’s one of those cases many would label as artsy-fartsy. I found it intriguing but wasn’t grabbed emotionally.
Picked for the cover of the collection, Tonight It’s Me follows a hot young hustler in LA who’s one of those sad cases of aspiring actors fallen off the wagon. We first meet him at some rich clients’ mansion on the Hollywood Hills providing his “services” in what comes across as a deeply shallow and depressing scenario. He then receives another call and cruises to the house of a potential new client who turns out to be something he didn’t expect. And that’s due not only to the fact that the person is a transgender but because after business is done they start drinking and talking and clearly connecting. Is our hustler ready for something like that? The conclusion is not black or white and the film keeps you interested in the outcome thanks to its performers who embody these characters genuinely and share great chemistry making this film one of the most solid titles of Boys On Film 12.
Boys On Film 12 is released on VOD and DVD on November 24th
Francesco Cerniglia – Film Editor