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Boys on Film 11 -
WE ARE ANIMALS |
ALASKA IS A DRAG
THREE SUMMERS | THE LAST TIME I SAW RICHARD | LITTLE MAN | FOR DORIAN | SPOONERS
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last update 12.Mar.14
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|R E V I E W S B Y R I C H C L I N E
Boys on Film 11: We Are Animals
The films in this 11th collection from Peccadillo show an unusual maturity for gay-themed filmmakers, mainly because they're not about sex, politics or coming out. These are stories about connections between people, and most centre on the place LGBT culture has in the larger society. So most of the films are more about friendships and families. There's rather a lot of of unspoken interaction, with continual revelations and surprising links. And these films come from a wide variety of genres, encompassing comedy, drama, fable, sci-fi and even horror. They're also very funny, unexpectedly sexy, and sometimes deeply unnerving.
release UK 10.Mar.14 • 14/UK Peccadillo 2h23 15 themes, language, sexuality, violence • 9.Feb.14
|We Are Animals
dir-scr Dominic Haxton
with Daniel Landroche, Clint Napier, George Alvarez, Drew Droege, Jeff O'Connell, Neil Elliot, Dan Sutter, Antonio Trischitta
|Even though this film is set in 1985, it has the feel of a futuristic dystopia, as the Secretary of Public Decency (Alvarez) cracks down on society in the face of the Aids epidemic. Most gay men are on a drug that removes their sex drive, while others are quarantined in prison where they await castration. The streets are filled with posters trumpeting celibacy, although most have been defaced by the defiant Pink Panther rebel group. At the centre is Nathan (Landroche) a government medical worker who today has to prepare Panther leader Peter (Napier) for the snip. But things take an unexpected turn when Peter escapes, taking Nathan to a wilderness community where he can wean himself from his meds. Filmmaker Haxton sets a dry, pitch-black comedy tone, playing with imagery of a creepy sci-fi thriller while flickering to scenes of tribalism as if to say that all of this comes from the deepest human urges: both same-sex urges and the ability to find a "final solution" for people you don't understand. It's all a bit scruffy and manic, but the storytelling is imaginative, and there are some breathtaking moments along the way.
dir-scr Magnus Mork
with Zaman Ahmadi, Matthew Ashford, Emily Barber, Charlotte Brimble, Mathew David, Barry Francis, Cherie Harewood, Kiel Lillie, Neal McWilliams, David Ian Sterl, Kieran Thomas, Gareth Wilson
Lively and realistic, this edgy, kinetic little short doesn't have much of a plot but makes us examine the links and barriers in everyday society. It's late night in a corner kebab shop, where three drunken guys arrive to get a burger. One of them is obviously gay, while another is appalled at eating this nasty food ("Go on, eat one chip!"). In the bar are three other drunken guys and two girls trying to cope with their own relational carnage. Then a mob of tattooed yobs arrive to stir things up further. Filmmaker Mork flits around the shop catching snippets of conversation that reveal layers of prejudice and acceptance. Yes, there is some underhanded homophobia, but much stronger is the outburst at an Irish guy who is jokily referred to as an IRA terrorist. Much of this is fuelled by inebriation, which leads to accusations, misunderstandings, teasing and some rather menacing face-offs. Without making it too terribly obvious, the four tribes of people in the shop offer a clever microcosm of wider society, interacting in ways that seem harmless but probably aren't. It's also extremely well-shot and edited, with sharply realistic performances that cut through the labels on the surface.
|Alaska Is a Drag
dir-scr Shaz Bennett
with Martin L Washington Jr, Spencer Broschard, Barret Lewis, Bernard Addison, Jason Jaworski, Jill Morley, Sonya Karels, Natalia Nunn
This gently comical slice of life makes some telling observations about being an outsider in a small town. It's narrated by Leo (Washington), whose father moved him to Alaska to toughen him up. But he astutely sees it as a place people go to get away from civilisation. Unmistakably fabulous, no one has any doubts about his sexuality as he works in the fish-packing plant. And one colleague (Lewis) in particular makes his life miserable, bullying him relentlessly and constantly picking fights, which Leo dives into with Jackie Chan-style gusto. So when new guy Declan (Broschard) turns up, Leo braces for a new onslaught of abuse. But Declan also feels like an outsider, and as they become friends Leo begins to think that maybe he can survive here after all. Writer-director Bennett gives the film a very personal tone, bringing out realistic humour and some tense drama too. There are a few silly touches, such as Leo's disco fantasy daydream. But the dialog is bracingly honest and warm, and sometimes very funny. It's also nice to see a story like this about a guy who just wants to be himself and fit in, not make any kind of political statement. Although why Bennett used a limp musical montage instead of giving Leo his big musical performance number is anyone's guess.
Adapted into the feature: ALASKA IS A DRAG (2017)
|Three Summers Tre Somre
dir Carlos Oliveira
scr Morten Kirkskov, Carlos Oliveira
with Morten Kirkskov, Simon Munk, Stine Schroder Jensen, Carsten Bjornlund, Birgitte Hjort Sorensen, Sarah Boberg
As the title suggests, this is a story in three parts, recounting the secret, disarming relationship between two family friends. Last summer, 14-year-old Thomas (Munk) accompanied his parents (Jensen and Bjornlund) to visit their friends Jorgen and Lisbeth (Kirkskov and Boberg). In the evening, Thomas took a walk with Jorgen during which they each confessed a secret: Thomas admitted that he was gay, Jorgen that he was divorcing Lisbeth. This summer, Thomas' parents are feuding and he has just split with his first boyfriend, so he asks to stay over with Jorgen, quietly seducing him while they watch TV. Then next summer, Jorgen has a new girlfriend (Sorensen) and is deeply unnerved when Thomas turns up unannounced for his annual dinner party, seemingly threatening to unravel his life. Shot and edited like a feature film, it looks absolutely gorgeous, capturing the sun-drenched locations as well as subtle glances between the characters. It's also beautifully played by cast members who invest a dark honesty into their roles. With relatively little dialog, we vividly understand layers of subtext. This is remarkably involving filmmaking - unfussy and strikingly visual. It's also surprisingly sexy, with a vivid sense of danger in the situations as well as delicately lingering questions.
|The Last Time I Saw Richard
dir-scr Nicholas Verso
with Toby Wallace, Cody Fem, Brian Lipson, Marta Kaczmarek, Melissa Godbold, Will Haines, Jack Harvey, Liam Willaton
Dark and increasingly freaky, this short thriller is shot like a proper feature and seriously gets under the skin. It's set in a psychiatric hospital, where Jonah (Wallace) strikes a defiant jokester pose against authority, while privately cutting himself. He also taunts the other patients mercilessly, then gets frustrated when his new roommate Richard (Fem) refuses to react to him. When Richard catches Jonah cutting himself, a connection is made that allows a brief smile and a shift in power. After a full-on confrontation, the two develop a connection that gets increasingly freaky as Jonah begins to see into Richard's private nightmares, where he's stalked by creeping ghostly demons. Filmmaker Verso shoots this in a skilful way, with superbly naturalistic performances that undercut the nastiness with dark comedy. The effects work is also cleverly understated, which makes it even creepier as we follow Jonah into the darkness, where his biggest surprise is how much he cares for Richard. Yes, the film pulls us into its horrific scenes along with Jonah, throwing us off by mixing charm and menace in equal measure. And since the characters are so complex, we never have a clue where it's heading. But we can see under the surface that these two young men need each other to survive, and that separating them is the cruelest thing that can happen to either of them.
dir Eldar Rapaport
scr Eldar Rapaport, Dalit Ziv
with Daniel Boys, Darren Evans, David Hemsted, Thomas Charles Middler, Jamie Thompson, James Beaumont, Dan Edwards, Craig Jurassic
Beautifully shot with artful lighting and a lush soundtrack centred on Schubert, this insinuating fable gets under our skin with its surreal story and deeper message. Elliot (Boys) has been single for a lot longer than he'd care to admit, indulging in a string of casual relationships that don't go anywhere. We meet him when he's with Tim (Thompson), but Elliot's so distracted by the sounds of the little man (Evans) who lives upstairs that Tim gets annoyed and leaves. In the morning, Elliot's brother Ryan (Hemsted) turns up for breakfast, in pain after the breakup of a long-term relationship Elliot can't even begin to imagine. But Ryan is worried about Elliot, who once again goes out to pick up another guy (Middler) only to again be distracted by his upstairs neighbour. At the end of his rope, Elliot ventures up into his flat, and is shocked by what he finds there. Filmmaker Rapaport has such a strong visual and sensual approach that we can't help but be sucked into this odd little story, even if it sometimes feels a bit choppy. But there's a warm and witty tone that holds our interest, and as it gets increasingly nasty, the offbeat plot grabs hold of us. And the nicely ambiguous touches get our minds spinning.
dir-scr Rodrigo Barriuso
with Ron Lea, Dylan Harman, Victor Pereira, Tova Smith, Jerald Bezener
|This clever, simple little film speaks to us on two very important levels. The most striking note is about seeing others as they are rather than as we imagine them to be. But the film also confronts us with our attitudes toward people different from ourselves. It centres on a father and son: Oliver (Lea) is a single dad caring for his teen son Dorian (Harman), who has Down's Syndrome. So it's understandable that Oliver is a little over-protective. On the other hand, Dorian clearly needs his space. He has a new friend from school, Marco (Pereira), and his sitter (Smith) is encouraging them to spend time together. But Oliver wants to keep things the way they were, even though the signs are everywhere that Dorian is a typical teen. Understandably, writer-director Barriuso strikes a slightly over-serious tone, but finds some terrific comedy moments here and there. The film is skilfully shot and edited, with gentle, natural performances that continually reveal character details far beneath the surface. And there's so much detail in the characters and relationships that we can't help but see ourselves in there. It's great to see a story like this told without sentiment, and with no political statement. This is just honest human interaction, and it's strongly moving.
dir-scr Bryan Horch
with Walter Replogle, Ben Lerman, Richard Ballon, Nathan Tetreault, Shawn Maroney, Richard Bravman, Emma Zbiral-Teller, Rae L Banigan
Sharp and very funny, this comical short picks apart aspects of culture where gay and straight communities meet. It's inventive and rather silly, but the characters are engaging and a lot of fun. Nelson (Replogle) has finally had it with sleeping on a stained old futon with his husband Corey (Lerman), so he plans a day to buy a new bed. At the shop, there's a system set up to decide what kind of mattress you might need, but Nelson is nervous about using it because he's never come out in public. Sure enough, the Smart Bed (voiced by Maroney) proclaims his sexual preference before Corey arrives, and the other customers gather round fascinated, getting into the process perhaps a bit too enthusiastically. So by the time Corey arrives, they're practically local celebrities. The film makes several strong points without pushing anything too hard, nicely highlighting how society is shifting, with gay subculture sometimes causing more fascination than fear. But even though the film has something to say, it's main point is humour. And what makes it so enjoyable are the small character details as well as Replogle's nervous nice guy and Lerman's Zach Galiafanakis-like random goofball. So without seeming to, this little jokey short manages to break ground in queer cinema.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall