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Boys On Film X



teens-screenshotReleased: 2013

Shorts Directed By: Fabio Youniss, David Rosler, Dominic Haxton, William Feroldi, Lukas Dhont, Amaury Grisel, Evan Roberts, Till Kleinert, Jacob Brown, Antony Hickling

Certificate: 18

Reviewed By: Timothy Breach

The 10th collection in Peccadillo Pictures once again is a collation of short films of varying length, style and genre.

Unlike the others in the series, number 10 doesn’t have a title; it’s simply X. I’m not sure if there is a deeper meaning than the desire to commemorate the milestone with a roman numeral. If there is, let me know. But without a title it does make it difficult to collectively review the shorts. Rather than adhere to a theme or plot line, they are going to have to prove themselves worthy of featuring in a milestone collection.

So how do you open a milestone collection? Well Peccadillo Pictures have gone for Headlong. Would I have opened with it? Probably not. Is it bad? No. So it’s good? Well… Okay so I’ll stop talking to myself. Headlong is subtle, maybe too much so, and for me it felt like I had to do too much thinking to get lost. There’s potential in the coming together of the two characters but it didn’t seem logical to me and left questions in my mind. Just why!? I also found it difficult to believe the character motivation and actions. Whilst it is simple and focused, which makes it watchable, it failed to be engaging.

That certainly wasn’t the start I hoped for, but lets trot along into A Stable for Disabled Horses – see what I did there? I’m so funny! What immediately hit me was how similar in tone and general allroundedness (I making that a word) it is to the shorts I have produced through my film group, Tiny People Fabulous. This made me almost instantly like it but it also put me on edge because it felt like I was critiquing things which I know are apparent in our shorts (though we film on a 0 budget so give us props). But here goes… the humour was hit and miss, the performances were at times lacklustre and you do see the reflection of the cameraman in the window – WHERE WERE THE CURTAINS!? – but I loved it. The flaws and lack of polish give it a charm that you lose with big budgets and over-complication. The story was charming, the plot development worked and the ending was satisfying. What more could you want?

From something which lacked polish to something that is crafted with such attention to detail it verges on art; Little Gay Boy, Christ is Dead. From the use of imagery, symbolism, lighting, camera angles through to the score, this short is hauntingly beautiful. It appease your mind, eyes and ears despite the shocking and explicit nature of what you’re seeing (or is implied). It pushes you to the edge and you may feel uneasy but at the same time find it hard to turn away. Though the depiction of innocence being spolit is originally and artistically explored and depicted through the weird image of a powdered-up dancer dying (which making it difficult to find faults to pick), at the same time, the time frame may be a little unbelievable. It works but may have worked if they’d spread it all out. That being said, if it were spread out the Christoph may have reacted differently. If you don’t get it on the first sitting, come back to it. Allow yourself a second chance to take it all in and see things you may have overlooked.

Boys Village is similarly well crafted, but shouldn’t need a second look to understand it. The eerie and isolated atmosphere and tone are well crafted, hooking you in from the beginning and ensuring you stay watching till the end (otherwise some questions will remain unanswered!). Without the synopsis you wouldn’t really question what you are seeing at the beginning, but then the tension well built up that questions arise and you start to wonder what is real and what isn’t. It is clear that the driving force behind Kevin is his loneliness and isolation – it makes the events of the short believable, if a little weird, from the dolls to the stone placing… it’s freaky. The story is intriguing and though some of the characters feel unexplored, it is well paced and the ending, which answers most of your questions, successfully raises more without making you feel cheated – it lets you draw your own conclusions.

Oddly, the next short also felt as well crafted as the previous two, though it took me a while to appreciate it. Blinders certainly is beautiful through it’s use of light and the prominence of the score. It is a treat both visually and audibly. It’s essentially a story about whether you stay on the path you are on or you let distractions steer you of course – hence the title. For those who don’t pick up on it in the film, or know anyway, blinders are those things work-horses wear to keep them focused on what’s ahead. The synopsis and end result aren’t exactly a match, and the beginning didn’t draw me in, but mid-way through it started to fall into place. Looking back at it it manages to say quite a lot in a short amount of time and without doing too much – it’s subtle and beautiful.

My buzz phrase of “well crafted” is being thrown into the bin because it seems to be applying to a greater number of shorts than I had anticipated. Teens Like Phil however is… erm… finely tuned – there, another phrase. I must warn you, you may need tissues for this one. It’s emotional. Maybe heart-wrenching. The lead’s performance is just astounding – it blew me away. What Teens Like Phil does well is present multiple sides to the same issue; Phil and Adam are in many respects different sides of the same coin – both finding it difficult to deal with their sexuality and both with extra-pressures, especially from their family and peers. Everything is so well developed that you are sucked in and it feels real; how can you not be moved by the chain of events which lead to a harrowing scene (thank god it’s not that explicit). It confronts many issues and scenarios which, unfortunately, still plague some areas of the Western world, and shows that nothing is ever as simple as it seems and we should learn to accept and love one another for who we are. It’s moving, beautiful, emotional and now I’m repeating my words – just watch it!

Who needs a break? Well luckily for you, that was the emotional peak of the collection. That’s not to say that Inflatable Swamp is void of emotion, well it kinda is, but that’s not the point. The point of it is, well, I’m not quite sure. It’s definitely original, mildly strange and, taking into account the character development and ending, quite romantic. It is the story of a sexually promiscuous guy finding something he worth keeping – his last balloon. Confusingly the events which lead to this realisation revolve around diabetes interrupting a sex session; how that led to him changing his views I do not know.  This change was indicated by the only use of dialogue being at this point. What sticks out though are the balloons – a visual metaphor for all of his encounters (well I’m hoping that he doesn’t really get guys to bring round balloons). They’re his baggage, a constant reminder of who he is, all these nameless fucks just lingering around, festering in a swamp of loneliness – it works visually and if you think about it, metaphorically.

Time to wrap things up with Yeah Kowalski!, an all-round light-hearted look at a particularly pubescent issue, wrapped in gayness. For some of us, puberty strikes early and for others it strikes late. For the late bloomers there can be a feeling of inferiority – a misfit. That’s how Gabe feels. Poor Gabe. Well luckily for us, Gabe’s path to coming to terms with it is humorous, though you can’t help but feel sorry for him. Somehow though it all leads to him getting the guy he wants… how I don’t know. I feel like I missed something. Maybe the plotting is off. Maybe a few scenes of character development and exploration of motivations were needed. Despite this minor flaw, it is mildly funny and the fact that it doesn’t take itself or its subject all too seriously, makes it refreshing and an enjoyable short to wrap up on.

So that’s Boys on Film X. Did it feel like a milestone? Yes. There wasn’t a bad film in the collection. The low points are Headling and Yeah Kowalski! but they’re not bad films. They’re pretty good. They just don’t match up to the craft of the others, whether it’s the artistry in Little Gay Boy, Christ is Dead or the emotion in Teens Like Phil. The collection is cohesive thanks to the skills of all involved and the quality in the end products. Peccadillo Pictures have continued the resurgence seen in Youth In Trouble and delivered once again. Does it top it? No. So where does it sit in the rankings? I’m going to place it second, just above Protect Me From What I Want.

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