Length: 147 minutes in total
Watched: 22 and 24 June 2016
As I mentioned with the last DVD I watched, I’ve had stuff sitting in my folder since before I came to Japan, and if I didn’t buy this gay short film series before I came to Japan, it could have been the first time I went back to the UK – either way, it’s a pretty long time. Similarly, I left the box in the UK, so I no longer have all the information with me – and thus I didn’t really know what to expect.
I do know it wasn’t bought in Japan, though. Good luck finding LGBT media here… the gay shops in Nichome only have porn, which saddens me. Compare and contrast the UK, where almost every DVD shop I went to (Fopp in Edinburgh, the shop in the BFI cinema in London, etc) had a gay section. This will eventually be the thing that pushes me out of this country, let’s be real. Anyway, Amazon is a bit better, and I’m able to find relevant stuff… sometimes. I often end up having to just use the UK Amazon site. In fact, that’s what I had to do when I bought another DVD in this series. Excuse me if I end up having the same rant when I write that post.
I was actually spurred into watching these on the same day as watching Get a Room, as all the other shorts on my Tumblr to-watch list were trailers, or not actually appealing. And four years is long enough to wait before watching something!
Speaking of this series, it’s still going even now, which pleases me. The newer boxes boast that it’s the world’s most successful short film series, but that just makes me wonder how they work that out. As for the DVD itself though, as with gay movies in general, it has its ups and downs. There were nine movies in this collection – I’ll try to give a short review of each one individually – but probably only a couple of actually good ones. The series is prolific, and doesn’t always filter the bad ones out well. But (proving that I haven’t matured that much since I was 19) I get a warm fuzzy feeling when media is actually aimed at me, and recently I’ve been really needing the connection and comfort that these kinds of movies afford me – I watched these still only a couple of weeks after the news came through about the shooting in a gay club in Orlando and our entire community was smarting. The Brexit vote was also just happening so it was nice to take my mind off that, too.
In general, one thing I’ve enjoyed about watching these short movies, and the other series that I’ve watched since this one, in July and August, is that short movies tend to be by first-time filmmakers, or those near the beginning of their career – this does mean that they’re often not so good, or the acting is wooden, but it also means that the makers are more aware of filmic minutiae, such as framing and foreshadowing. Perhaps they’re more recently out of film school, for example. There’s also not pressure to adhere to a three-act structure with short movies – again, this can work against a movie that obviously has more potential or is the germ of a larger idea, but it often means a short movie can stand on its own and do just what it needs to.
Anyway, here’s the full set. Just to be clear, spoilers may come up.
Watched on 22 June:
Film #193: The Island (2009)
Director: Trevor Anderson
Length: 5 minutes
A nice relaxing start to the series, this features some CGI animation and a man walking through a snow-covered lake in Canada, and narrating about a homophobic letter he received saying gays should all live on an island – he considers what this would be like, a kind of gay utopia.
It’s very short and kind of amusing. I think it’s on Youtube.
Film #194: Cowboy (2008)
Director: Till Kleinert
Length: 35 minutes
This is a German film where a real estate agent goes into the country looking to buy up a disused farm. He meets a topless young man, who steals his car, and then seduces him. After some veiled references from the young man about the situation, the film jumps into something unexplained and creepy at the end. I don’t really want to spoil this bit actually, it’s worth watching – although my reaction was mostly “what the hell?”.
A lot of the movie is voyeuristic – the characters don’t talk all that much, and it’s all about one guy watching the other. There is also the creepy streak throughout, and adding that to the desolate setting, I’d say I enjoyed this probably the most out of all the films.
One thing I found weird about this, though, and that I find weird about a lot of gay films, is that the main character has a wife or a female partner – and like, yes, bisexuality exists (that’s not the issue), but films like this are always about the characters catching the first inkling that they like the same sex, and then jumping straight into full anal (*cough*brokebackmountain). In these films the female partner is always shorthand for “he doesn’t know he’s gay yet”, and that doesn’t ring true to me – not least because it seems to deny bisexuality. Or at least that’s how I read it. In any case, a man the age of the main character here – I’d guess at least my age and perhaps in his 30s – is someone I’d expect to have considered his sexuality already. I so much prefer the ones where the main character starts already knowing they’re gay (or bi, or whatever). I think I’m just done with coming out.
Watched on 24 June:
Film #195: Kali Ma (2007)
Director: Soman Chainani
Language: English and Hindi
Length: 14 minutes
A guy is bullied for being gay at school, and then his very Indian mother confronts the bully, who is naturally also the guy’s crush (a popular gay movie trope). She and her son come very close to killing the bully. A bit weird, to be honest.
When I searched for the title online, I got an image of a Hindu goddess, so I’m guessing Kali Ma has a meaning I’m unaware of. I can only assume that the goddess is represented by the mother. I’m not interested enough in this movie to find out, though. The tone was too strange for me, especially the belligerence from the mother.
Film #196: Lucky Blue (2007)
Director: Håkon Liu
Length: 28 minutes
This is probably the other one I really enjoyed. I actually had this on my aforementioned list of gay movies on Tumblr, but the version linked on Youtube had Vietnamese subtitles. In the film two boys, both pretty introverted, meet at a campsite when they go with family. They share a kiss after swimming naked together (if I remember correctly), but then the main character gets scared and runs away (also a standard trope). He has to win the other boy back by the end. Lucky Blue is the name of the other boy’s pet parrot.
Fairly standard stuff, and it establishes most of the relationship on furtive glance, which I find overdone at this point. I related a lot to the characters, though.
This one is one where the short length of the film worked against the movie, though – I think it might have worked better at double the length, where it could flesh out the characters. The movie struggles to convey life outside the microcosm of the introverted main character – a brief scene where he sees the other boy laughing with many friends seems tacked on, because instantly I want to know where these friends came from.
Film #197: Love Bite (2008)
Director: Craig Boreham
Length: 3 minutes
A studenty short film with a quick punchline. There are two boys, bored Australian high school students taking drugs, and… there’s no way not to spoil this. One comes out to the other, and the other starts to spew homophobic abuse, but it turns out he’s not coming out as gay, he’s a vampire, so he bites the other boy. It’s super low budget, and the acting is wooden. It’s fine for what it is, and three minutes isn’t much of your time, but I wasn’t particularly amused. I bet you can find it on Youtube.
Film #198: Bramadero (2007)
Director: Julián Hernández
Language: N/A (Spanish titles but no talking)
Length: 22 minutes
OK, this is porn. I know, I know, there’s a debate going around about whether things are porn or not if they’re arty, and my opinion usually boils down to, no, being arty doesn’t mean it’s not porn. But in any case, this is porn (using standard porn sequences: starting with foreplay, progressing through oral and anal sex strictly in that order, and ending with climax) interspersed with the two men acting like animals or being violent toward one another. It takes place in a half-constructed building somewhere in Mexico – there’s also a lot of longing looks out at the city. Honestly I spent most of the time confused as to why they’re crawling everywhere, or why they’re acting out weird mating rituals.
It reminded me a lot of the film “Broken Sky”, another Mexican film about boys suffering break-ups, with little to no dialogue. Although that other film also had a few beautiful moments, the overall effect was something boring, and that applies here too. Having just checked right now, the other movie is by the same director, so it… kinda makes sense that they’d be similar. Maybe this is the porn version of that.
The title Bramadero refers to something animalistic, such as violence, if I remember correctly – the movie provides a dictionary definition at the end along with some other nonsense about animals in heat, how profound it is to be violent and how sex is inherently animalistic. It’s not my thing, it’s safe to say.
Film #199: Weekend in the Countryside (2007)
aka: Week-end à la campagne
Director: Matthieu Salmon
Length: 17 minutes
This movie shows two boys – I read them as boyfriends from the start, although I’m not sure if that was intentional – going on a trip to the countryside somewhere in France, to an uncle’s house. When they get there, it turns out that the uncle has three massive dogs, and the other boy is scared to death of dogs, which makes up the rest of the story. He eventually has to leave, and his boyfriend doesn’t even help him with his fear – in fact, he sends him off with a homophobic slur.
I’m still not sure if they’re meant to be a couple, for that reason. At one point the first boy tries to initiate sex with the boy who’s scared of dogs, in the shower, and it’s not clear whether he is rebuffed because the other boy is shaken up, or because he doesn’t want to anyway. There are also a few other unanswered questions here – when he sees the dogs, the other boy also hallucinates a dead girl, and I’m wondering now who that is and whether she was killed or something.
Nice cinematography, though (tying in to what I was saying about short movie earlier). It’s a shame the movie itself isn’t all that good. I think I was losing my patience with the movies at this point, I’ll be honest.
Film #200: Working It Out (2007)
Director: Tim Hunter
Length: 6 minutes
Yeah, I was definitely losing my patience quickly with this movie after the last ones (my notes are very sarcastic). It’s also a very quick one, so it’s not like I wasted a lot of time watching it. It’s about a couple who like to go to the gym together, but one is very jealous of the other looking at another man, and they have an argument about it. A simple love triangle. The title is a simple pun.
Like the other Australian movie, it’s low budget, the image obviously worse quality than the other movies, and the acting is wooden. There’s a kind of twist near the end, and if it’s not obvious what it is, I recommend checking your vision. I kind of enjoyed the movie, though, because it was light, and I liked hearing Aussie slang like “root” instead of “fuck”.
Film #201: Futures (and Derivatives) (2007)
Director: Arthur Halpern
Length: 19 minutes
This was a bit of an odd inclusion in the series, because the gay content boils down to a three second shot of one of the characters with his boyfriend near the end. It’s set in an office, and they need a temp to come in overnight to finish off a presentation. It turns out he made something flashy and colourful instead of following the orders to the letter, which sends the rest of the workers into a kind of trance, enabling them to suddenly find beauty in everyday sights. Or something. It was a bit weird, but I liked the contrast between the drab first half and the colourful second half.
More than any other movie in this series, however, this movie has aged badly. It was produced in 2007, and it really shows. The other movies in this series were also produced in the same period, between 2007 and 2009, but while the atmosphere or zeitgeist is perhaps different to equivalent movies produced now, in this decade (for example, movies produced between 2009 and 2012 tend to have an apocalyptic aspect or an atmosphere of despair), the other movies here have managed to stay somewhat timeless. Not so with this one. Flip phones are all the rage, and the computer software depicted seems positively decrepit now. What’s more, a shot of Times Square at the end has an advertisement for the Lehmann Brothers – that symbol of corporate America in 2007 that was brought to its knees only a year later. I can’t fault this movie for that, though. It’s just ironic that it’s something that may have been accidental, but may have been in the movie as a representative of corporate America.
I do like the period of 2007-2009. I was at university and I did a lot of maturing during that period, and stuff from that time still gives me nostalgic feelings. But the world has definitely moved on from then. It’s weird to think it’s almost ten years ago now.
Apart from that, the movie is kind of funny, even if the main twist is nonsensical, and the dialogue is also absolutely nonsensical, seemingly parodying corporate speech that tends to be full of meaningless buzzwords. The title, too, was difficult to search for on the internet – a Google Image Search literally turns out similarly titled, completely unironic business strategy books and stock images of graphs.
Now you may be thinking I didn’t like this series, given that I’ve resoundly trashed most of the movies in here, so I just want to clarify that I liked the DVD in general. I like seeing things that I didn’t choose myself, sometimes, and this is a good way to get some movies in. I’ve already bought and watched another DVD in the “Boys on Film” series. I’m not so keen on paying an arm and a leg to keep watching more of these DVDs, though, and I will have to import them from the UK as only some are on the Japanese Amazon (being sold to be imported from the UK) – but I like having curated series of movies like this, instead of having to find the movies myself online, which can be difficult. I’ve actually watched several more short movie series since this one – one was in the Tokyo LGBT film festival (now called Rainbow Reel). So I’ll be back with another super long post soon!