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On this page: CONTRACTED | F**KED
Encounters: DREAM A40 | VAPORS
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last update 9.Apr.12
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Contracted   3/5  
dir Max Clendaniel, Christian Martin
scr Alice Charman
with Eleanor Gecks, John Mason, Garry Summers, Anna Gallagher, Simon Cook, Bernie Hodges
12/UK 12m
Contracted Opens with a montage of people having sex while a man (Summers) panics about the fact that James (Mason) and Anna (Gecks) aren't ready to go. Indeed, James is shooting a porn film. It turns out that James and Anna are contracted to appear in public together, and are due to put on a show of affection on the streets for the paparazzi as they prepare to make a movie together. James is accompanied by his stylish Lucy (Gallagher), who is fed up with the nonsense. The film's low budget is apparent, but the camerawork overcomes this with some clever lighting and a focus on the good-looking cast, even if their performances are a bit stilted. But the idea is extremely clever, and kind of makes us wish someone would tackle the whole issue of "lavender marriages" head on in a feature.


F**ked   3.5/5
dir Jack O'Dowd
scr Christian Martin
with Ben Moorman, Vanessa Fletcher, Leigh-Anne Clarke, John Mason, John Burns
11/UK 11m
f**ked A teen (Ben Moorman) heads out with a friend (Leigh-Anne Clarke) for a night out to celebrate finishing his exams. He's clearly looking for action, but isn't expecting to be followed into a toilet by an older guy (Mason), who gives him drugs before having unprotected sex. A trip to the clinic follows. The film has a brightly comical tone, comparing the guy's experiences in a nightclub with his single mother's (Fletcher) quiet night in. But things turn serious rather quickly, even though the tone stays breezy and light. The cast is decent, turning in nicely underplayed performances, and the direction and editing are refreshingly unfussy, making sure the message comes through loud and clear. Indeed, the premise is so cautionary that it's essentially a public health announcement. And it has a very strong point to make. The short opens with a note that it's based on a true story, but it's actually based on hundreds if not thousands of them.


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encounters Encounters
Four rarely seen short films are packaged onto this disc from the British Film Institute. They all deal with gay life in the days when it was still deep underground, with furtive glances and secret touches. These are groundbreaking films that address themes in straight-on ways that are way ahead of their time. And they're all made by gifted filmmakers who capture images with telling insight and rare artistry.
release UK 26.Mar.12 • 12/UK 1h13                     18 themes, nudity • 27.Mar.12
Dream A40   5/5
dir-scr Lloyd Reckord
with Michael Billington, Nicholas Wright, Peter Seward, Beverley Green, Yolanda Fermin, Neville Evans
65/UK 16m
dream A40
The morning after a groovy party, two guys (Billington and Wright) head off on a drive, playfully flirting with the other drivers on the A40 and teasing each other in the car. But since homosexuality is still illegal in Britain, they have to be careful about showing their affection for each other. But all around them straight couples can do anything they want, leading to tension between the men. Which catches the eye of a motorcycle cop. Artfully shot and edited, the film dares to confront an unjust law through a subtle story that has very little dialog but vividly conveys the attitudes and emotions of everyone on screen. And in addition to the sexuality issue, the film challenges issues of race and power while drawing us into a mini-odyssey that's more involving than more full-length features. Clearly these men would rather be straight, oppressed by the society around them but unable to change. And as they end up in a frighteningly surreal purgatory, the film takes on an increasingly dark, pointed tone that's unforgettable. And still eerily timely.
Vapors   4/5  
dir Andy Milligan
scr Hope Stansbury
with Robert Dahdah, Gerald Jaccuzzo, Hal Sherwood, Haal Borske, Richard Goldberger, Larry Ree
65/US 31m
Thomas (Jaccuzzo) checks into a New York steambath, where it's clear that he's looking for "recent acquaintances". Men are walking around comparing notes on the new arrival until Jaffe (Dahdah) asks if he can sit down and talk, then nervously explains that he's a married man on his first visit to a steambath. But a series of queeny guys keep interrupting them, laughing at the fact that they're just chatting. And as they talk, they develop a surprising friendship, admitting that visiting this place is an escape from their strained lives back home. They also talk about their desires and even dreams they've had. Then Jaffe starts talking about the tragic death of his teen son, and the conversation turns almost painfully intimate. With skilful photography, the film has a gritty, dark visual style that reflects the underground nature of the time and place. Meanwhile, the naturalistic performances that highlight the connections between these me, sometimes hinting at much deeper yearnings. Intriguingly, for a film about men cruising for sex, there's nothing but conversation on screen. Along the way, the film touches on several gay scene cliches, subverting them in ways that would be impossible today.
Come Dancing   4/5  
dir-scr Bil Douglas
with Clive Merrison, Michael Elwick, Nicole Anderson, Verity Bargate
70/UK 15m
COme Dancing
In a seaside town, a young man (Elwick) is trying to get the attention of a cafe worker (Anderson) who is glued to a dancing programme on TV. Then another man (Merrison) walks in, and the two notice each other. They have a cigarette together while laughing at a private joke - perhaps not the same one. Then they playfully run out onto the pier for a rather surreal adventure that takes a strange twist. Made in an almost experimental style, the film is a series of glances and cheeky actions, as the detached young guy playfully smirks at everyone around him, then is taken aback then the other man comes over to ask for a light. Conversation is only in snippets, vaguely suggestive and misleading. With this this student film, Douglas shows considerable skill at capturing a vivid sense of place while cleverly manipulating his audience, drawing us into a story and catching us completely off guard by the actions and reactions of the characters.
Encounter   4/5
Or Paul & Richard & Michael & David & Alan & Buddy & Hugo & Tom & Terry & Peter & Richard & Carlos
dir-scr Peter de Rome
with Paul Eden, Richard Flischoff, Michael Rogers, Tom Yourke, Alan Golden, Buddy Russell, Terry Goldsack
70/US 13m
Like some sort of urban ballet, or maybe an early form of "gaydar", men walk around New York with their arms held out in front of them. Zombielike with their eyes closed, they converge in an empty building, where their shirts disappear and they run into each other, exploring their torsos with their hands in a dreamlike way. And then they're all naked, silently embracing in the shadows. Like de Rome's other films, this is shot and edited in a beautifully tactile way that holds us in its trance-like mood. It vividly reflects an aching inner desire for physical human contact, not necessarily sexual (although that element is here too), but just the ability to reach out and touch, giving in to more animal like urges. And there are some tiny political touches here as well, including the presence of a black man and more than a few wedding rings. As it escalates to a choreographed final shot, it gets dangerously close to becoming an orgy, but that's not de Rome's intention here. What he has to say is much more primal and sexy.


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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall