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Reviews by Rich Cline | See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 4.Jul.22

Boys on Film 22: Love to Love You  
Reviews by Rich Cline
love to love you
release UK 27.Jun.22
22/UK Peccadillo 2h24

melon grab
There are eight shorts in the 22nd volume of Peccadillo's venerable series, and this one's a particularly eclectic and challenging collection. These are films that embrace a historical view of the homosexual experience, with many exploring stories of men who are hiding something important while facing a serious challenge. These are mini-dramas that provoke us to identify more strongly with each other.

plummer-cambridge and emo dir-scr Oliver Mason
with Pierre Emo, Stanton Plummer-Cambridge, Jayson Benovichi Dicken, Kane Surry, Connor Williams, David Frias-Robles, Hannah Almond, Andrew Piper
19/UK 12m

Have We Met Before?  

Have We Met Before? This documentary short takes a witty and earthy look at how gay men have been hooking up over the past 50 years. It's an amusing selection of voices recounting first-person stories with open-handed honesty and a knowing sense of the bigger picture. And the visuals are inventively assembled as well, including vintage footage and actors recreating a range of scenarios. It's sharply well-assembled, even if it's not terribly deep.

With an audio track that features men sharing memories, details and feelings, the imagery recreates life over the last half-century in London, starting with member clubs in the days before homosexuality was decriminalised. These were the only places where gay men could safely meet, talk or dance. Along with real film clips, dramatisations feature actors Emo and Plummer-Cambridge demonstrating the hanky code and various aspects of cruising, when move on to the dawn of the internet with anonymous Gaydar hookups and today's even more convenient phone apps. As one man observes, "Now you order a man on Grindr like you'd order a pizza on UberEats."

New scenes are produced with witty nods to the period from the 1970s to the present day, adding to the film's lively tone and the wry, openly honest words of people describing their experiences. This makes the film remarkably honest about the joy of sex and the thrill of cruising wordlessly. And the voiceover is packed with warmly funny anecdotes and observations, including emotional reactions. It's not particularly thorough, describing a very specific series of situations, and filmmaker Mason never tries to get under the surface to explore why. But it's a nicely illustrated slice of history.

Sorrells dir-scr Michael Thomas
with Anthony Sorrells, Mark Wax, Matt Jennings, Lea Madda
19/US 20m

First Position.  

First Position Moody and sometimes almost elegiac, this short drama takes a poetic approach to the life of a dancer at a terrible moment in history. It's a strikingly shot film that looks terrific and features unusually strong, emotive performances. So it finds deeper emotions that cut through the usual bleak Aids epidemic narratives. This also means that a very dark edge permeates the film, holding the interest even when the pace wobbles and it begins to feel like a slightly indulgent version of a story we've heard before.

In 1982 San Francisco, Zachary (Sorrells) is battling physically against various illnesses. As he goes through his practice moves in a dance studio, he remembers moments from his childhood and early life in the city. One of the men he meets in a bar is choreographer Jamie (Wax), who helps him hone his craft and also knows the realities of Aids from previous experience. But despite Jamie's concerns, Zachary refuses to stop dancing.

Filmmaker Thomas creates gritty period-style dramatic scenes, finely produced to capture the time and settings. These are interspersed with fantastical dance sequences, which are beautifully performed on a black stage and cleverly intercut with rehearsal room footage. Sorrells brings a wrenching authenticity to his role as a talented young man who simply refuses to sit around and wither away. So the fact that this point in history offered him no escape feels powerfully tragic even without the overwrought filmmaking touches.

Castaneda dir-scr Luis Pacheco, Rafael Ruiz Espejo
with Pabel Castaneda, Rafael Ruiz Lizarraga, Mauricio Espinosa, Alberto Estrella, Diane Alitzel Castillo, Mariana Morales Jimenez, Alejandro Rivas
21/Mexico 16m


Winter Earthy honesty infuses this astutely observed short film from Mexico, which includes wonderful throwaway moments that offer key insights into the characters. It's also sharply photographed to capture the natural realism of life in the city in contrast with the fantastical neon glow of a lively nightclub. And with its open-handed performances, the film becomes a remarkably moving depiction of an emotional connection that transcends fears.

Living in the big city, nonbinary drag queen Nico (Castaneda) is able to be their authentic self, quietly living their best life. When their father (Lizarraga) arrives in town for a medical appointment, Nico feels that they must literally straighten up the apartment and behave as expected. Dad clearly wants a closer relationship with the elusive Nico, who works all night and sleeps all day, preparing for an upcoming big show. The question is whether Nico will invite Dad to come along.

With its knowing mix of humour and warm emotion, this film expertly captures the thoughts that fall in between the lines of dialog, beautifully played by an excellent cast. The tensions between this father and child are easy to identify with, as they remain unspoken while conversations happily explore memories and deeper feelings of affection. What emerges is a remarkably powerful, important reminder to listen to that inner voice. And the final sequence carries a wonderfully complex emotional kick.

justesen and nawrocki dir-scr Mitchell Marion
with Maciej Nawrocki, Jack Hardwick, Katharina Naumow, Niels Justesen, Adele Oni, Aaron Williams, Leo Bevan, Magdalena Kozak, Kayden Gray
20/UK 30m

The Suit Weareth the Man  

The There's a beefy tone to this slickly produced half-hour drama, which centres around a social injustice while bigger themes about identity swirl to epic proportions. It's played to the hilt by an engaging cast, but there's very little lightness accompanying the dark interaction between the characters. This makes it feel as if a vice is squeezing the central figure mercilessly, hinting at a larger conspiracy that's rather terrifying. Or might it actually turn out to be cathartic?

In London, Martin (Nawrocki) is climbing up the ranks in property development, carefully concealing both his Polish roots and his sexual orientation from his demanding boss Christopher (Hardwick). He's not much more honest with his pushy conservative mother Marta (Naumow), with whom he still lives. Then his carefully constructed life begins to wobble when Martin is put in charge of a major project to tear down his home to build a block of luxury flats. And Martin begins to feel reality slipping around him.

While the film has a very serious tone, the story plays out with some witty fantasy touches, from the way Martin can't help but lust after Christopher to the odd suited men who he thinks are following him, unearthing his secrets like some sort of gay mafia. Dreams and flashbacks play out in strikingly rendered cutaways that feature glaring light and inky blackness, leading to a surreal confrontation. Where this goes may be a bit simplistic, and also deliberately provocative, but writer-director Marion has some important points to make.

Regan and Fuzi dir-scr Andrew Lee
with Noah Regan, Noah Fuzi, Rob Carlton, Amy Kersey, Adele Berry, Shauna Berry, Tallula Mason
17/Aus 10m

Melon Grab  

Melon Grab A smiley, sunny sensibility infuses this visceral Australian short, which balances comical moments with underlying emotion. Using a poetic cinematic style, writer-director Lee cleverly captures a pivotal moment in time when two friends are facing a suddenly uncertain future. The film sharply evokes a sense of carefree summertime, while knowingly depicting how connections are complicated by identity and masculinity.

The narrative is loose and almost out of reach, centring on best pals Corey and Jaxon (Regan and Fuzi), two skater boys who spend their days gliding down suburban streets, hanging out in the sunshine or playing videogames. There's a lot of affection between them, especially as they are facing the fact that Corey will soon move away with his mother. They can still laugh about it ("I hate you"/"You know I hate you too"), but are clearly struggling to hide their deeper pain.

Intriguingly, the audio doesn't always match the image, with light-hearted, often ridiculous conversations that continue seamlessly through the jaggedly edited scenes. All of which combines to create a gorgeously shot and assembled introspective drama. Writer-director Lee's kaleidoscopic approach skilfully blends the exuberant physicality of youth with a knowing understanding of the underlying emotions. Together, Regan and Fuzi have tremendous presence on-screen, and a vivid sense of camaraderie between them. And the expert camerawork finds a range of lovely details along the way.

A L S O   O N
Love to Love You

The Act
The Act
dir Thomas Hescott
with Samuel Barnett, Simon Lennon
20/UK 18m 3/5

Reviewed at Raindance 2020

dir-scr Jamie Di Spirito
with Taofique Folarin, Ben Aldridge
18/UK 17m 3.5/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2019

Infinite While It Lasts
Infinite While It Lasts

dir-scr Akira Kamiki
with Michel Pereira, Julio Aracack
19/Brazil 18m 4/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2019

cert 15 themes, language, violence, sexuality 4.Jul.22

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