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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 28.Nov.21

The French Boys  
Reviews by Rich Cline
The French Boys
release UK 3.Dec.21
21/UK NQV 1h40

sunset cemetery
The first in NQV's four-part series of French short film collections, these five dramas are unusually strong. Each one takes a thoughtful, often intimate approach to its central character, unpicking a range of issues that prevent people from being themselves around others, generally due to social expectations about masculinity. They're sensitive and strikingly well produced and played. These are actors and filmmakers worth keeping an eye on.

pouchoulin and igual dir-scr Charles Dudoignon-Valade
with Lucy Pouchoulin, Arthur Igual, Gael Kamilindi, Rachel Williams, Catherine Salviat, Jerome Rebotier, Mildred Puissant, Salome Dudoignon-Valade
20/France 18m

So Long, Paris!  

So Long, Paris! Beautifully shot in iconic locations with witty references to classic movies, this bright little drama uses lively comedy and a bit of farce to explore a pointed situation. The film is cleverly written and directed, with a very strong cast that includes a young child in the central role. It bristles with emotion, but never becomes sentimental.

Walking around Paris, cheeky pre-teen tomboy Lucy (Pouchoulin) tells strangers that her parents are dead, which her father Paul (Igual) accepts as a joke. But he's distracted by a phone call with his boyfriend Dom (Kamilindi), who wants Paul to tell his daughter about him. Then when Lucy refuses to return to her mother as scheduled, she throws a wrench into Paul and Dom's plans for a romantic evening. And when Dom turns up as planned, Lucy runs off into the city.

There's a refreshing honesty to this short, which knowingly touches on how difficult it can be to be honest with those we love, thinking we're sparing their feelings. Lucy isn't upset that her dad has a boyfriend, she's angry that he was afraid to be honest with her. Indeed, she's frustrated that grown-ups in general refuse to tell the truth about anything. So no wonder she is clinging to hope that her parents will reunite. And the film's final scene is lovely.

diong and zimmer dir-scr Josza Anjembe
with Alassane Diong, Yoann Zimmer, Emile Fofana, Nacima Bekthaoui, Steven Dagrou, Thibaut Guillemaille, Fabien Joubert, Miglen Mirtchev
19/France 21m

Baltringue   4/5

Freed There's an earthy, doc-style realism to this prison drama. Writer-director Anjembe maintains a remarkably intimate perspective that draws the audience into the story. Shot largely in close-up, the film centres on faces, thoughts and feelings as it touches on properly powerful issues without overusing the usual genre cliches. And while much of the plot's details remain unspoken, it's still vivid and involving.

As he approaches the end of his prison sentence, 20-year-old Issa (Diong) meets new inmate Gaetan (Zimmer), who feels much freer here than he did in his previous higher-security lockup. As Issa helps him navigate around the prison-yard thug Jordan (Fofana), he senses a mutual attraction but tries to maintain his distance. The tension of the inmate culture is overwhelming, and Issa wishes he could express how he feels.

Diong plays Issa as observant and thoughtful, a focussed young man who has learned woodworking to help get a job outside. This creates a low-key bond with Zimmer's Gaetan, who is trying to complete his school diploma. The actors skilfully play this connection in a tentative way, even as they reveal a strong spark between them. And there's also an added kick of emotion as Issa learns that his mother isn't willing to accept him back home. This additional layer of meaning makes the predictable but understated conclusion surprisingly moving..

connell dir Guillaume Mainguet
scr Yona Rozenkier, Guillaume Mainguet
with Jacques Bonnaffe, Mathias Labelle, Martin Buraud
19/France 18m

Vincent Before Noon  
Vincent Avant Midi   4.5/5

Vincent Before Noon An unspoken conflict infuses this sharply well-made drama, which centres on a father and son who manfully struggle to deal with their badly strained relationship. Director-cowriter Mainguet cleverly depicts a complex situation that has several pointed layers to it, dealing with sexuality, memory and identity. It's a strongly introspective portrait of this relationship that allows us to discover its secrets through the filter of our own experiences.

After years of estrangement, a man (Bonnaffe) arrives at the home of his son Vincent (Labelle) just as he's packing to move to Montreal with his boyfriend. Their reunion is awkward, and Vincent tells his father to say what he wants to say and then leave. But he struggles to find the words to tell the increasingly annoyed Vincent what's on his mind. Essentially he just wants to see his son, and remind him not to forget him.

Constantly ringing phones are a distraction each time these men begin to speak. And the father's presumptuous approach offers a glimpse into their relationship, as he opens Vincent's mail, digs around in boxes and helps himself in the kitchen. Mainguet cleverly plays with perspective, revealing details without over-explaining them. It's a remarkably open-handed approach that bristles with moving emotions and works its way deep under the skin.

dolmaire dir-scr Roman Kane
with Quentin Dolmaire, Theo Augier, Julien Gaspar-Oliveri, Lou Chretien-Fevrier, Pauline Haudepin, Ulysse Mengue, Antoine Heraly, Maxime Coggio
20/France 22m

Sunset Cemetery  
Extérieur Crépuscule   4/5

Sunset Cemetery Artfully designed, with a dense sound mix, this short gets into the mind of a young man who doesn't know how cope with the fact that life simply refuses to go as he expects it to. It's a lovely little coming-of-age tale, unfolding in under 20 minutes with a superbly complex sense of humour and honesty. And filmmaker Kane keeps the tone positive, never allowing the film to become gloomy, even though it's centred around a death.

Drunk after a party, teen Joseph (Dolmaire) turns up at the home of his older brother Martin (Gaspar-Oliveri) in the middle of the night, moaning that he'll never fall in love. They talk about their over-concerned mother, and Martin's forthcoming cancer treatment. The conversation sparks Joseph to open up to Leo (Augier) when they meet at another party. Then after Martin's death, Joseph struggles to reconcile his grief with the fact that his brother wanted him to move forward.

While contemplating mortality, Joseph worries about missing his life, and this takes on added context with his dying brother beside him. Later, Joseph in visits Martin's grave and finds encouragement in talking through his spiralling thoughts and feelings. Director Kane keeps the camera trained on the subtly expressive Dolmaire's face all the way through this film, maintaining a refreshingly impressionistic approach to the plot. So Joseph's hopefulness feels genuine, continually fuelling the narrative as it meanders to a surprisingly sweet conclusion.

houngnikpo and royer dir-scr Florent Gouelou
with Simon Royer, Marvin Dubart, Mathias Houngnikpo, Louise Malek, Hugues Delamarliere, Romain Eck, Jean-Pierre Jerome
20/France 20m

Beauty Boys  

Beauty Boys A complex situation is very nicely set up in this lively short, which mixes sparky comedy with much darker emotions. Writer-director Gouelou is knowingly exploring the nature of masculinity and identity, digging under the surface to isolate key thoughts and emotions. The film feels somewhat educational, and perhaps a bit late after more than a decade of RuPaul's Drag Race. But the fact that it's still needed is actually the point.

Preparing their drag show on a rural town-square stage, Leo (Royer) and his colourful cohorts Yaya and Ambre (Houngnikpo and Malek) are shoved out of the way by Leos' thuggish brother Jules (Dubart) and his angry pal Francois (Delamarliere), who plan to perform a rock-n-roll number. While they're worried about stoking further homophobia, Leo and his friends decide they can't give in to the hatred. They welcome iconic drag queen Cookie (Eck) to join their show. And as the performance kicks off, a scuffle in the crowd reveals some honest feelings.

Bracingly realistic, the film remains superbly grounded in realism, resisting temptation to indulge in the glitter-infused diva fantasies these stories usually become. Instead, it takes on real-life reactions from characters who are complex and easy to identify with, especially in their more thoughtful moments. Dubart is particularly strong, as Jules is so worried about feeling embarrassed that he forgets about his brother. It's his journey that has the biggest impact here, empowering Royer's Leo to live his truth.

In addition, a sharply shot and edited 5-minute making-of doc reveals the film's inspiration in filmmaker Gouelou's real-life experiences, and how he put the movie together and shot it over four days.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 27.Nov.21

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