Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...

On this page - THE FRENCH BOYS 2:

< <
S H O R T S > >

Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 7.Jan.22

The French Boys 3  
Reviews by Rich Cline
The French Boys 3
release UK 4.Feb.22
21/UK NQV 1h42

This third collection of six short films from France continues the exploration of masculinity from engaging and provocative angles. The key connective element here is insecurity, as men face big questions about themselves relating to attraction, gender identity or the impact of bigotry. Thankfully, most of these films take an engagingly light approach to their weighty topics. So along with the superbly revelatory performances, these shorts are skilfully shot to a very high standard, adding lashings of sexy style to each situation.

castellotti dir-scr Fabien Ara
with Capucine Lespinas, Ange-Nicolas Castellotti, Marie-Pierre Nouveau, Brigitte Aubry, Genevieve Emanuelli, Serge Barbagallo, Nathanael Maini
19/France 14m

Féeroce   4.5/5

Fairyocious Strikingly shot with a driving intensity, this film opens with a young boy telling his mother, "I want to be a girl." From here, writer-director Ara creates a blackly comical vibe even as the tension grows, cleverly exposing emotions and opinions that lurk within everyone. And the conversations get more extreme, leading to an epic collision between love and hate.

When her 8-year-old son Simon (Castellotti) questions his gender, his mother Alma (Lespinas) has no idea how to react, terrified when Simon says he wants to dress up as a fairy to go to school, not just once but every day. She turns to a neighbour (Nouveau) for support, but this only extends the discussion to several other residents in her building, each of whom offers advice that becomes increasingly unhelpful and even horrific.

With a snappy pace and sharp-edged dialog, the film reflects the latent homophobia that swirls around in conversations even between people who consider themselves enlightened (although some characters are outright bigots). These neighbours come up with some barbaric suggestions, so it's no surprise that Alma snaps back angrily. And it's Simon who makes her understand what's really happening here. This is beautifully written and expertly played by a strongly engaging cast.

bujeau and berland dir-scr Aurelien Laplace
with Francois Berland, Christian Bujeau, Hugo Malpeyre, Fabrice Archirel
19/France 10m

Le Graffiti  

Le Graffiti With a dryly robust sense of humour, this nutty short maintains a straight face even as it becomes increasingly outrageous. It's very talky, centring around a rapid-paced conversation between two panicky middle-aged men, but it spirals through a range of issues and themes, taking in deep-seated prejudice that's fuelled by various kinds of fear. This is a riotous exploration of fragile masculinity that comes with an added clever infusion of philosophy.

When a nasty homophobic slur is painted on the historical home of Voltaire, the mayor (Bujeau) of the village turns to the local doctor (Berland), because the graffiti suggests that the two of them are having sex. And now preservation experts are worried that removing it will damage the landmark. Because he's secure in his life as a family man, the doctor is nonplussed, but the mayor worries about his public image. Then when the painted text is edited, their feelings quickly change.

Writer-director Laplace adds witty touches throughout the film, from the frantic conversations to the shocked (and delighted) faces of villagers as they spot the offending graffiti. These camp touches help add some fresh air into the otherwise densely chatty film, in which the superb Berleand and Bujeau circle around each other, hilariously hurling accusations while inadvertently revealing their own personal insecurities.

wonka dir-scr Florent Medina
with Emanuele Arioli, Eddy Wonka
16/France 10m


Eva Colourful and beautifully shot, this short drama captures a range of thoughts and feelings between two characters who quietly provoke each other, even as they open up to talk about who they are beneath the surface. Writer-director Medina skilfully captures the situation, bringing out inner feelings with complex camerawork that makes the most of the superbly understated performances.

When the painfully shy Gabriel (Wonka) asks cross-dressing prostitute Eva (Arioli) to help him express himself sexually, their connection doesn't go as expected. Embarrassed, Gabriel struggles to convey what he thinks about his inability to engage with Eva, who suggests that it's because he's a man. Eva then notes that perhaps the problem is that Gabriel isn't in drag himself. And a photo of Gabriel's mother provides some inspiration.

The characters reveal themselves in ways that are engaging and surprising, sharply well-played by Arioli and Wonka to create a striking sense of intrigue and intimacy, both of which draw the audience in deeply. Where this encounter goes is quietly understated, finding tenderness and understanding in unexpected places. Both of these young men are dealing with their own issues, and the steps they take here are quietly powerful.

yosef and bonnet dir-scr Nina Parent
with Victorien Bonnet, Golan Yosef, Orane Braujou, Stephanie Marc, Theo Gerey, Guillaime Mattera, Yoan Lesavre
21/France 27m

A New Breath  
Second Souffle   4/5

A New Breath Shot in gorgeous wide-screen, this hauntingly introspective drama carries a powerful visual kick as it follows a young man grappling with his identity while his family's sadness threatens to tear his world apart. It's a complex story to tell in under 30 minutes, but writer-director Parent takes an observational, subjective approach that highlights the themes and gives the film a vivid point of view. And she tells a punchy story that transcends the details.

Shy loner Gabriel (Bonnet) is experimenting with the camera his older brother left in the house, secretly shooting footage of their grieving mother (Marc) and arguing with his bitter sister (Braujou). Then in the village, he begins filming local thug Antoine (Gerey), whose friends attack him. Running away, he's rescued by the handsome Jules (Yosef), a dancer who performs on the nearby beach. And their friendship suggests hope for Gabriel's future.

Produced like a feature film, this story is told with terrific rhythms and textures, including several extended silent sequences that help us see through Gabriel's eyes. This creates a distinct depiction of each person on-screen, further highlighting Gabriel's inner journey and allowing the fine actors to reveal deep layers. Jules challenges Gabriel's voyeuristic approach, and Gabriel begins to realise that he wants more from Jules than beautiful footage. Parent stirs in a subtle fantasy element that raises questions about what's really happening. But the internal voyage catches the imagination.

marlot dir Zoe Chadeau
scr Maxime Lavalle
with Arthur Leparc, Harald Marlot
18/France 19m


Masculine Shot mainly in tight close-up, this remarkable drama uses colour-washed lighting and moody music to vividly set the tone for a complex exploration of the true nature of masculinity. Director Chadeau and writer Lavalle create a superb situation over the course of one tuneful night in which two fine young actors can circle around each other, revealing thoughts and feelings in ways that surprise the characters themselves. Where it goes is remarkably moving.

The film opens as Arthus (Leparc) is in bed with Marin (Marlot) after a night out. As dawn breaks, they begin discussing the hazy details of the drunken evening. Having met when Marin was performing as his drag alter-ego Miss Agatha Pettibone, the burly, straight-acting Arthus confesses that this isn't his usual type. So he's surprised that he came on so strongly to Marin. But he stays to chat, and there's a vulnerability between them that explains their strong chemistry.

Intriguingly, Arthus rejects being put into any queer boxes but is wryly interested in Marin's description of gay icons and his clubbing lifestyle. Arthus is caught off-guard by his attraction to someone like Marin, but Marin reminds him that sexuality isn't so easy to define. And Marin then agrees to dress up as Miss Agatha to help Arthus understand his feelings. This is a beautiful depiction of how masculinity has little to do with what's on the surface. And neither does a true connection between two people.

forte and blanc dir Gilles Tillet
scr David Lambert, Gilles Tillet
with Solal Forte, Manuel Blanc, Audrey Bastien, Calypso Buijtenhuijs, Yoann Bourgeois, Alexandra Jaquinet, Lea Mimoun, Stephanie Moussu
17/France 18m

The Tightrope Walkers  
Les Équilibristes   4/5

The Tightrope Walkers Set in a brightly sunny location, this comical short has a loose, natural sensibility as it traces the connection between two men who meet on a beach, then have to face an unexpected complication. Never flippant, this is a rare comedy about a serious situation, puncturing a range of attitudes and opinions along the way through interaction between a variety of characters. And all of them are strongly well-played, leading to a wonderfully satisfying final moment.

In a seaside town, Vincent (Forte) is spying on surfers with his friends when he spots Jean-Christophe (Blanc) and orchestrates an "accidental" meeting. This leads to a feisty, barbed night out in which the younger Vincent and older Jean-Christophe happily tease each other before heading home. But in the morning, Vincent discovers that Jean-Christophe is HIV-positive and undetectable, resulting in a panicky trip to a clinic.

It's refreshing to see a film take such a grounded approach to a topic that's important but no longer needs to be greeted with so much fear. The fact is that Jean-Christophe has been living with HIV for longer than Vincent has been alive, he's perfectly healthy and can't pass it on. But Vincent is stuck in the mindset that this means imminent death. Forte and Blanc are terrific together, reacting to a range of situations in ways that are amusing and revealing. And where the story goes is remarkably loose and clever.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 7.Feb.22

Send Shadows your reviews!

< < S H O R T S > >

© 2022 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall