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|Shadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...
|Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 29.Oct.21
The Male Gaze: Celluloid Dreams
Reviews by Rich Cline
release UK 1.Nov.21
21/UK NVQ 1h48
This collection of vintage shorts, made over a span of 32 years, is a fascinating collection of retro dramas that deal with issues of their time, but also have strong resonance now. Indeed, the dated ways filmmakers approach a variety of themes makes them even more intriguing. Most of these dramas take on very big themes about masculinity and sexuality, often at times when men are in danger. Refreshingly, some throw comedy into the mix without diluting their power.
dir-scr Jonathan Wald
with Steve Connell, Tom Fitzpatrick
Just Out of Reach
Quietly observant and loaded with suggestion, this brief short captures just a single moment in time with remarkable detail. It's beautifully shot and edited, with just two actors and a lively sound mix that hints at the world waking up outdoors one morning. And filmmaker Wald is more interested in raising questions than offering easy answers. So while it feels slight, there's a surprising suggestion of depth.
As the sun streams into a house early one morning, a young guy (Connell) wakes up in bed next to an older sleeping man (Fitzpatrick). Quietly getting up, he tries to silently creep out. But a car alarm foils his plan. "I didn't want to wake you," the young man says. And it seems like neither one is interested in having a long conversation.
The awkward silence is beautifully played by the engaging Connell and Fitzpatrick, who nicely understate their characters' feelings while subtly revealing that this isn't a one-night stand. And Wald loads the pauses with intriguing ideas that leave us pondering the deeper connection between these two men. Because their story is clearly much broader than we can see, perhaps with an autobiographical connection with the filmmaker.
dir Roberto F Canuto
scr Roberto F Canuto, Xu Xiaoxi
with Kylan James, Kjord Davis, Alex Aguila, Diana Grivas, Alexandra Smothers
With a delicate musical score, and a lovely set of sketches on-screen with the opening and closing credits, this drama picks up a story in the middle, then flickers around to fill in details. It's a sensitive approach to storytelling, focussing on feelings rather than dialog. The filmmaking is a bit basic, but the cast is strong enough to pull the audience in.
While driving through the countryside, Toto (James) recalls a day working as a mail carrier, stumbling onto a violent crime scene and finding Mark (Davis) injured on the ground. After cleaning his wounds, Toto joins him on the run from a violent gangster (Aguila). And as they get to know each other, an instant connection turns into a romance.
The film is nicely shot as this duo goes on the run through the desert in a convertible. Each of their quiet moments together is interrupted by violence, and some of the transitions feel a bit awkward, as does a heavy dose of sentimentality. But the minimalistic approach has a remarkably open-handed emotionality that's genuinely touching.
dir Kyriakos Hatzimichailidis
scr Giannis Tsiros
with Themistoklis Panou, Petros Lagoutis, Vasilis Argyrakis, Stefanos Gouveris, Fanis Pavlopoulos, Tasos Pirgeris, Tasos Theodoropoulos
Men Dont Cry
Set on a dark and stormy night, this moody drama from Greece feels rather heightened and soapy, with its garish musical score and frequent cutaways to grainy black and white flashbacks. But its story is intriguing enough to hold the interest, largely because it's clear that the two central characters are keeping secrets from each other. It feels a bit blunt, but carries a strong kick.
After walking through the pouring rain, Ilias (Lagoutis) arrives at the home of Petros (Panou) looking for answers. Battling a bad cough, Ilias reminds Petros that they once met before, in a gay nightclub where Ilias had gone with a friend as a joke. Then as the evening gets increasingly awkward, Petros asks Ilias to leave. But Ilias is determined to stay for a pointed reason.
Director Hatzimichailidis keeps the tone unsettling, with sounds, music, swirling camerawork and Ilias' relentless coughing. Which makes the encounter between these two men that much more unsettling to watch. The performances are heightened, full-on dramatics with little nuance. And the film is edited together in a choppy way that continually cuts away before revealing details. So even when the true nature of the story emerges, it's largely subtextual. But there's an urgency to the story that holds our attention.
dir Cyril Collard
scr Cyril Collard, Jean-Marie Guillaume
with Fredeic Deban, Ali Baouche, Farida Chrouki, Aissa Jabri, Mohammed Zran, Sahalia Baouche, Tawfik El Sherbini, Larbi Bekka
Alger la Blanche
Late French filmmaker Collard dives straight into this story, catching the characters mid-conversation before propelling them into a series of dramatic and remarkably intimate confrontations. Produced to a high standard, the story is unusually complex and layered for a short film, even a half-hour one. It's tackling serious issues with honesty and openness while revealing telling details about the characters.
In France, French-Algerian teen Farid (Baouche) is having a secret relationship with artist Jean (Deban), and wants him to move to Algiers with him. Jean seriously considers this, but he's also tired of hiding their relationship. Then Farid gets in trouble with the police, and his carefully constructed world begins to implode. As he deals with this, Farid faces issues with his family, worried that his secrets will come out. And Jean has to make some big decisions.
The film has a gritty, realistic look, shifting between Farid and his family as they struggle with the complexities of their life as North Africans in France. He's also aware that Jean has a much easier life, able to be more open about who he is. At the centre are questions both Farid and Jean have about their relationship. Each performance is excellent, including smaller side roles, most notably Chrouki as Farid's sister. And where the story goes is heart-stopping and bold.
dir Ana Galizia
scr Ana Galizia, Felipe Fernandes, Luciano Carneiro
voices Ana Galizia, Charles Fricks, Geovaldo Souza, Gunnar Borges, Leandro Rabello, Lucas Ignacio Nascimento
This textured documentary uses a beautiful collection of photographs and home movies to explore the life of Luis Roberto Galizia, who died young of Aids. The material reveals a lively, engaging man, and it's lyrically assembled by his niece Ana, who never knew him, as an way to get to better understand her mysterious, colourful uncle. The film beautifully captures his cheeky energy and love of life.
Troubled as a child in Sao Paulo, Luis was always seeking approval from his family. A natural performer, his family travelled with him to California when he went to university at Berkeley. He loved his time there, and became a part of the gay scene, taking holidays and attending festivals. But he returned home desperately ill. Three decades after his death, Ana sets out to tell his story.
Much of the imagery is presented in silence, while occasional voices appear on the soundtrack to offer details and read letters written back and forth that express a full range of emotions. Seeing photos of the men Luis loved is very moving, a vivid depiction of his close connections. And in the final section, Ana describes finding a box of Luis' things and realising that he died at a time when Aids was only barely understood in Brazil.
dir-scr Harry Richards
with Keniro, Bianca Bonomi, Nigel Shipp, Chris Piper, Emma Blyth, Tim Bouverie, Adam Fowler-Watt
This comical British short centres on a pair of twins who find themselves in a rather messy situation. It's a clever idea, and it's very nicely put together with a likeable cast and some inventive effects work that double the lead actor. Writer-director Richards doesn't dig too deeply into the story or themes, and some of the plot points feel a bit overwrought. But there's a lot of strong emotion running through it.
Identical twins Noel and Leon (Keniro) share everything at home, school and on the rugby pitch, but as they turn 18 they find themselves caught in a romanic triangle when Leon falls for classmate Abi (Bonomi), but she's more interested in Noel. At a lively party, Abi makes a move, which forces Noel to make the unexpected confession that he actually has a secret boyfriend (Shipp).
The film is colourful and nicely offhanded, with some gentle comedy and slightly awkward performances that reflect the characters nicely. It's clearly a very low-budget project, as the technical quality is a bit rough around the edges. And the script itself is underdeveloped as well. But Keniro is likeable in both lead roles, and while the story takes some dark turns, it's also refreshingly positive.
dir-scr Glenn Gaylord
with Ben Lang, Andrea LaBella, Greg Siff, Lindsey Girardot, Nic Arnzen
Packed with brightly comical touches, this short taps knowingly into the relationship between a Jewish mother and son. Writer-director Gaylord has a lot of fun depicting a teen's obsessive mindset, complete with fantastical touches that only seem to augment each uncomfortable feeling. It's a relatively simple little film, but it leaves us with a smile.
At the centre is a teen (Lang) who is called Boychick, a Yiddish term of affection, by his over-involved and often embarrassing mother (LaBella). At school, Boychick is obsessed with the hot star of the debate team (Siff). And in his imagination, his pop idol Ashley (Girardot) guides him in an elaborately choreographed dance that will get him noticed by the boy he loves.
The script is peppered with clever gags, such as how the schoolgirls are all swooning over their out gay teacher (Arnzen). Scenes are staged with brightly colourful and musical flourishes and a strong attention to detail, vividly capturing the nervous Boychick's internalised yearnings. This allows some darker emotions to emerge, even as the tone remains upbeat and humorous.
PREVIOUSLY REVIEWED AT LLGFF 2002
See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL
© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows
on the Wall
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