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Boys On Film: Confessions



gm-ss1Released: 2014

Shorts Directed By: Stephen Dunn, Denis Theriault, Peter Knegt, Dustin Shroff, Christophe Predari, Arjan Van Meerten, Dominic Haxton, Robert Hawk, Samuel Leighton-Dore, Bobby De Groot, Fillippo Demarchi

Certificate: 18

Reviewed By: Timothy Breach

And so we come to the last Boys on Film collection; Confessions. Before I continue I must make a note that I’ve only just realised that it may be better to call these collections anthologies, so from here on out they’re anthologies and Confessions is #12. I guess you could say that was a confession, eh? The word ‘confession’ has it’s origins in religion, either through the setting out of doctrine or the admission of sins. Today it also covers admissions of guilt or an acknowledgement of committing a shameful or an embarrassing act. What it boils down to is the act being wrong or immoral, or even just perceived that way by society. As a title, it has the power to draw together films from a range of perspectives and draw from a rich history of usage.

First up; Home From The Gym. There isn’t much to tell you in terms of story, other than a man comes home from the gym and settles down. It is this simplicity and focus which forces the short to be refined and impeccably put together in order to convey a story without any dialogue or ‘action’. Everything is thought through to convey the thoughts and feelings of the man – it’s pretty powerful. So you may be wondering where’s the confession if nothing happens or nothing is said? To me, I see the short as a confession to the pursuit of the ideal male physique which is coveted in the gay world yet leaves many feeling alone – hence the tears; he has nothing.

And from subtle unspoken confessions to up-front confessions in Good Morning – though it was very mediocre. So, as you can probably tell, Good Morning revolves around a man waking up after celebrating his birthday and finding a boy on his sofa – they both had lied to each other about their ages. 30 and 17 is probably more shocking where the legal age of consent is 18 and drinking age 21, but maybe not so here. However there’s potential for the confessions to have an impact despite them being handled lightly – which could’ve worked but the performances were inexpressive and the dialogue delivery felt rushed. I can see that it tried to comment on the rise of ‘dating’ apps and quick-fuck culture as well as the sexulisation of youth and age gaps, but it all fell a little flat. There was potential but it wasn’t reached and the confessions didn’t feel as central as perhaps they should’ve been.

Where Good Morning failed, Showboy succeeds. It’s a well thought out premise which is taken in an original direction and produced with such polish which makes it moving and a stand-out film. Unfortunately, despite the drag, it is no way related to Showgirls (one day I will pen an amazing sequel, homage or spin-off!)… okay, you may not agree with my love of Showgirls and using unfortunately wrongfully diminishes the quality of this short. At it’s core its an understated and gripping tale of a young mans struggle to support his douche-bag of a father which ultimately means performing drag – which would be a shock without the premise. I must state that the premise also provides some back-story which we don’t see. Whether he is gay or not, the struggle is real and believable. The use of inter-cuts between his performance and an attack alongside a carefully tuned use of sound, you are firmly brought into Julian’s mindset. Though he doesn’t confess his secret to anyone during the short, it feels as if it is almost a confession to himself of which he ultimately comes to terms with.

I now face a difficult task. I’m presented with an absolutely amazing short but one which I cannot easily link to the anthology title of Confessions. Cruise Patrol is a dialogue free (bar one line) animation and… it’s one of the most visually stunning animations I’ve seen and only the second of within Boys on Film (the first being Candy Boy). It was so WTF. I didn’t know what to expect but what I witnessed was thoroughly entertaining and original. I will not ruin it for you but you may at first think that the lead is high… It’s a shame it ended, though the ending was a nice twist on the walking into the sunset cliche. So where’s the confession I desperately need to justify it’s conclusion? I suppose the lead character confesses to the policeman that things aren’t what they seem? Or his actions are a confession of his feelings? Whatever the confession, I cannot mark it down – it was too different not to enjoy.

I Am Syd Stone surprised me. At first it felt unoriginal – well filmed but nothing special. There was nothing in particular that I could fault; the camera angles worked, the performances were good and the dialogue was believable. However there was just nothing hooking me in. Then came the confessions; these once lovers came into this situation with conflicting emotions and views. Where once they were united, now they were divided. It would appear that both thoroughly remain in the closet – which leads to a twist and an extremely satisfying ending, which wraps up with another confession of sorts (as well as the suppression of a confession). Those final few moments everything fell in to place; the actions and dialogue that had gone before made more sense; the message shone through – it’s commenting the disparity between Hollywood and the rest of society in terms of social progression and ultimately, the hypocrisy and almost irony in actors pretending to be people they’re not off camera. It’s relevance imbues it with power.

The notion of using short films to comment on a particular issue or ill facing society continues with Deflated. It, like Home From The Gym is short and simple, which yet again works wonderfully. It worked so well in putting across it’s point that at the end I was almost furious with the father – though I suppose that anger is more a reflection of my feelings on gender norms, gender construction and the pressures society puts on children to conform to these. Why shouldn’t the boy have a pink ball? It bounces just as well. It’s not his fault that the green one is deflated. This short is his confession to himself that he doesn’t care about colour, only how high that ball bounces. It’s a well thought out image to represent a whole issue.

Tonight It’s Me is a perfect follow-on from Deflated – it’s a story of a rent-boy coming together with a MTF trans-woman and ultimately having his life changed. It surprised me; I didn’t expect it to have a trans character; I didn’t expect to be so moved, almost to tears; nor did I expect it to end like it did. The central confession is that she is MTF. However they also play a game of two truths one lie whereby four confessions are made. This is where ambiguity arises. At the ending it becomes clear which statements are in fact lies and I’m not sure if they were telling the truth (which brought them closer through shared guilt) or they were just messing with one another… if it’s the truth, it makes for an uncomfortable ending to something so beautiful that it made me tingly.

Beauty continues into Human Warmth – a short which is poetic, thoroughly original but difficult to put into words in such a way as to not ruin what made it special to me. I suppose it explores a relationship and emotions through the juxtaposition of reality with a raw, stripped back woodland scene to represent the truth in the characters. In the woodland scenes we see their confessions to one another; what they want, what they need and what they’re willing to do. A simple hug between separating loves becomes so much more. It’s the unspoken moments where two minds become one that are powerful. I may not have been entirely sure about the ramifications of the ending, but it certainly didn’t detract from what had gone before.

And so we come to Age 17; do you remember being 17? Maybe some of you still are. It can be a complex time in terms of emotions and sexuality. On one hand you’re a boy but on the other you’re at the cusp of manhood. Depending upon your teenage years, this can be confusing, scary and destructive. Age 17 builds a short around the premise that a boy has feelings for the conductor of his band – who just so happens to be the local priest. I know what you’re thinking, but I will tell you know that this is not about abuse. The confession is the boys. Of his feelings. Of his sexuality. Though it often plays it safe, it feels original enough to make for a satisfying viewing.

Confessions are over. Confessions has come to an end. There is no time to repent for your sins. No time to admit to your guilt. No time for you to be punished. What I must start with is how relieved I am that there wasn’t a heavy focus on homosexuality being a sin. Religion barely featured. The focus was allowed to be on the the characters themselves within a wider society, which makes them all the more original and gives them a broader reach. It also allows for different messages to come through and different issues to be raised. Before I collated the reviews for this anthology review, I was unsure how these shorts came together. I knew that I enjoyed every single one of them (unusually) but I didn’t know how cohesive they’d be. Yes, Good Morning didn’t give me what I wanted and yes, Cruise Patrol doesn’t scream CONFESSION, but as a whole there is heaps of beauty, power and originality. Time may be blurring my memory of past anthologies (which I’ve tried to prevent by ranking as I’ve moved from one to another) but I have no hesitation with placing this in the top spot. If you’re going to have a taste of Boys on Film, make it this one.

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