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last update 19.Nov.14
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|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir-scr-prd Mathieu Blanchard
with Mathieu Blanchard, Sebastien Beaulac, Patrick Martin, Melanie Pilon, Ansia Wilscam-Desjardins, Dhanae Audet-Beaulieu, Marc-Andre Poliquin, Isabelle Giroux, Rosalie Julien, Jasmine Brouillette, Elizabeth Anne, Dany Papineau
release Can 3.Apr.13,
The 12 short (8-10 minutes each) episodes in this Montreal-based dramatic series explore urban life with a gay slant. Although it's not actually about "coming out", this is a soap-style ensemble piece touching on big themes like homophobia, drugs and Aids while exploring relational issues.
Mat (Blanchard) is a rising-star photographer struggling to get over his ex (Poliquin), who's back on the scene to interrupt his promiscuous lifestyle. Olivier (Beaulac) is married to Genevieve (Wilscam-Desjardins) and having an affair with her work colleague Hugo (Martin). And Genevieve's sister Caroline (Pilon) is a social worker trying to help 18-year-old addict-prostitute Teo (Audet-Beaulieu) while considering the future of her relationship with Marie (Julien).
Yes, the set-up feels eerily reminiscent of Queer as Folk (complete with token lesbian characters) as it tries to touch on every major issue a gay person might face. As the series' creator, director, writer and star, Blanchard keeps the tone warm and realistic, but can't help but indulge in every cliche of the genre. The depictions of relational pressures, social bigotry and darker elements like violence, drugs and fatal illness are played honestly with just a touch of melodrama.
And the actors are all terrific; there isn't a weak link in the cast, which is ably anchored by Blanchard's likeable performance as the complex, dithering Mat. Beaulac is another stand-out simply because he brings an off-handed tone to his role. Everyone else is fairly one-note, even when they escalate into irrational overdramatic emotion, and the whole project could have used a heavy dose of earthy humour to elevate it above a soap opera.
Another suggestion for a second series is to de-glamorise the cast a bit. These are all beautiful, sexy people with great jobs. In an odd mistake for a digital series, the sex is shot in that pornish TV-style: glowing, coy and utterly fake. And the script continually uses terms like "lifestyle choice" referring to homosexuality without always countering with the fact that it's not a choice at all. But there are very strong comments on prejudice and self-acceptance along the way, including a somewhat preachy message about drug use and safe sex.
15 themes, language, violence, sexuality, drugs
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
dir-scr Steven Vasquez
prd Ryan Bauer, Steven Vasquez
with Cory Tyndall, Brandon Rife, Addison Graham, Edward Gutierrez, Alderic Vitale, Aleksandr Dissan, Heather Paige Cohn, Tony Roehl, Ryan Massey, Federico Pedroni, Riley Ferris, Joshua Naranjo
release UK 14.Jul.14,
An anthology of four soft-porn Twilight Zone-style stories with a teenage gay twist, this low-budget production has a fairly limited audience. But despite the sometimes clunky filmmaking, the clips are packed with clever touches and witty ideas. And they're also very sexy.
Tyndall is the host for these comical vignettes, and also appears in a couple of them along with a repertory cast. In the opening sequence, Forever Mine, he plays a guy watching porn with his on-off boyfriend (Rife) as their relationship takes a darkly surprising but somewhat underdeveloped turn. Moving on, we get the more fully formed A Mind of Their Own, in which Aaron (Rife) suspects his boyfriend Rod (Graham) is cheating, but when he follows him meets the intriguing Marcus (Gutierrez) and discovers that their idealised relationship isn't quite what it seems.
In Unsolved Christmas, Zack (Gutierrez) is given a camera by his religious parents to distract him from his emerging homosexuality, but of course he uses it to snap photos of naked boys without noticing that his best pal (Dissan) likes him. And The Way to a Man's Heart centres on Stacy (Vitale), who is grieving over the death of his friend Thomas (Rife), who committed suicide while in an abusive relationship with Kevin (Graham). Then as Stacy is celebrating an anniversary with his rock-chick girlfriend (Cohn), Thomas emerges from the grave with a plan for revenge.
Made like a cheesy porn movie (there's probably a more explicit version out there), the film is simplistically written, directed and acted. But there's also some subtle substance here an there in the intriguing premises and witty twists. Much of this is corny, but by setting each story among teenagers, there's a level of yearning hopefulness that adds an odd kick to everything that happens.
Amid the continual nudity and sex (the casting director clearly prefers thin, smooth, dark-haired young men), the stories touch lightly on some much bigger issues, including forbidden lust, relational expectations, emotional abuse, guilt and the danger of getting what you want. And there's even a bit of unexpected honesty in the relationships. It's not very deep, but it's enjoyably open about lust and physical attraction in ways movies rarely are.
18 themes, language, violence, strong sexuality
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
In Their Room
dir Travis Mathews
prd Jay Knowlton, Jack Shamama
with Dino, Eli, Nathan, Mike, Kevin, Ginno, Jesse, Parker, Toby, Michi, Florian, Torsten, Micha, Jorg, Luc, Ben, Shane, Alex, Pietro, Max, John, Tommy, Ryan
release UK 8.Dec.14
Before making I Want Your Love, filmmaker Mathews traveled to three cities to document the lives of gay men in private. This collection includes chapters shot in San Francisco, Berlin and London. Most of these guys are young and tattooed, sleep on mattresses on the floor and love listening to music. And with the exception of a couple in Berlin, they're all single, sometimes fine with it but more often rather lonely.
In San Francisco, Eli bristles against the rules his flatmates impose, while the 23-year-old Parker talks about how he likes older men who are 26. In Berlin, Jorg confesses that he feels invisible to younger guys now that he's hitting 40. Torsten and Micha are a beardy couple who snuggle and giggle together, while Toby goes online and meets Luc, but their encounter doesn't go as expected. And in London, Alex wants people to be honest rather than polite, while Max prefers to spend time with guys he doesn't know very well. And pensioner John is recovering from a stroke but feels more like himself in drag.
All of these clips are casual, playful, introspective and very personal, letting men sit in their rooms in various states of undress (often naked) chatting about their favourite things, what they look for in a partner and the meaning of love and intimacy. Mathews watches them as they eat, bathe, get ready to go out and poke continually at their phone touch-screens.
There are intriguing observations about the cities in question, such as how Berlin has become an escape from rural homophobia, just like every big city around the world. But in cities guys tend to want sex without emotion, so tenderness is hard to find. Most of these men long to connect with another man, so their comments frequently centre on relationships, breakups and the hope for something better in the future. They're looking for chemistry, which makes the sex much better. But then you have to to give a little love away to get it.
Most importantly, the films show that gay men come in all shapes and sizes, with the same variety of interests and expectations as anyone else. There are common links between them, but no two of these guys are he same. And Mathews' camera is careful never to leer at them: he just watches and listens. And lets us see ourselves in them.
18 themes, language, nudity, sexuality
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
The Trip to Italy
dir Michael Winterbottom
prd Melissa Parmenter
scr Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Michael Winterbottom
with Rob Brydon, Steve Coogan, Rosie Fellner, Timothy Leach, Marta Barrio, Claire Keelan, Ronni Ancona, Rebecca Johnson, Flora Villani, Alba Foncuberta Bufill, Giuseppe Palmieri, Piero Aprea
release UK 25.Apr.14,
14/UK BBC 1h48/3h00
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
As with 2010's The Trip, this spoof doc sends Brydon and Coogan on a road journey to review a series of high-end rural restaurants, this time in outrageously picturesque Italy. As always, these guys have hilarious chemistry as heightened versions of themselves try to out-do each other with their impersonations of iconic stars. Including each other.
This time, Rob is assigned to review high-end restaurants following the steps of the Romantic poets around Italy. Steve agrees to come along only if he doesn't have to do impersonations or drink wine. Of course 15 minutes after they arrive in Camogli, Steve can't resist doing a bit of Michael Caine. And on the second stop, on a glorious beach at San Fruttuoso, he quietly pours himself some fine white. Along the road, Rob has a fling with their fixer Lucy (Fellner), and Steve organises for his teen son Joe (Leach) to join them.
As before, this was made as six 30-minute episodes for British television, so Iwatched it that way instead of as a 108-minute movie. At double the length, the episodes often feel somewhat meandering, with lots of sideroads and comedy set-pieces. But the extra space nicely frames the staggering beauty of the settings as well as the mouthwatering food, which is put in perspective as, after each meal, Rob gets Steve to guess the amount on the bill.
Along with the battle of impersonations (highlights include Bane and, of course, the Bonds), there are several hilarious running gags. The only CD they have as they drive is Alanis Morrisette's Jagged Little Pill. And Rob gets a jealous Steve to help him audition for a key role in an American TV series. More artistic angles emerge as the guys ponder the poetry and lives of Byron, Shelley and Keats, discussing the realities of fame, younger girlfriends and professional jealousies.
Winterbottom maintains a loose style that mixes the travelogue structure with the improvised comedic banter. It's drier than 2010's The Trip, and the barbed conversations often feel fractured and episodic. But there are moments when Coogan and Brydon cut brilliantly through the surface, revealing telling details about themselves, or probably their fictional alter egos. Either way, it's entertaining enough to leave us hoping they have another destination in mind.
15 themes, language
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall