JWR Articles: Film/DVD - Palm Springs International ShortFest 2017 - Boys and Men (Directors: Sylvain Dieuaide, Thomas Rivera Montes, Patrice Laliberté, Piaoyu Xie, Assaf Machnes, Fredric Lehne, Aneil Karia) - June 26, 2017

Palm Springs International ShortFest 2017 - Boys and Men

4.5 4.5

Reviewed at the 2017 edition of the Palm Springs International ShortFest.
Inner boys desperately trying to be outer men

In these seven widely varied productions, the actions of boys and men are laid bare, yielding good, bad and ugly results.

Guillaume Drifting (Guillaume à la derive)
Sylvain Dieuaide
Four and one half stars 18 min.

Oysters and stew

Dieuaide's homage to Kafka is a marvelously written, beautifully shot tale of one life collapsing in virtually every imaginable way over the course of a few hours: and on the subject's birthday no less!

Guillaume (a spectacularly understated performance from Bastien Bouillon that deftly reinforces the unfolding calamities around him) gets an unceremonious boot from work, has his sexuality mildly questioned, endures a painful breast-sucking memory from his mother and soon discovers his replacement at work has scooped up far more than his job.

The worldly Tom (Marc Arnaud’s suave, debonair delivery is the perfect foil for Guillaume's steady slippage from reality) knows much more than exactly what is being cooked for the birthday boy's feast: he treats the rest of the family members—notably Guillaume's wife—as if they were his own! A hallway “frame up” more than confirms his burgeoning status as “one of us.”

All of these bizarre proceedings are discreetly underscored by Paul-Marie Barbier's childlike, celeste-infused score (especially the closing song, “Coming Home”), itself expertly contrasting the opening snippet from Bach's mighty B Minor Mass.

A viewing is highly recommended. JWR

Dare or Truth
Thomas Rivera Montes
Three and one half stars 15 min.

Bullies on parade

Here's a film that is mostly very uncomfortable to watch for all of those who detest bullies. A gaggle of high school teens fritter time away by playing Truth or Dare only to send a young woman away highly distressed. Then a stolen cellphone becomes the catalyst for one of the “gang” to inadvertently reveal his sexuality thanks to an unauthorized, unwanted view of a personal selfie that leaves no doubt as to what turns his crank.

Told largely in black-and-white—deftly underscoring the dreariness of the situations and actions, the brief payoff in colour metaphorically provides the film's only moment of hope and maturity.

Sadly, the overall action is entirely believable¾playing out daily in institutions of education worldwide¾but most of those forced revelations end up in tragedies that never need have happened if only the young and “normal” amongst us would learn the meaning of tolerance and compassion as well as discovering the joy of diversity. JWR

Late Night Drama (Drame de fin de soirée)
Patrice Laliberté
Two and one half stars 8 min.

Temper, temper redux

Jérémie (having just been kicked out of a stripper club) opts to track down his apparent girlfriend Cynthia and find out just “What the fuck is up.” Once inside a pulsating dance club (at one with songs blaring out of his ride's sound system), the angry young man's temper moves up several notches, causing him to beat the shit out of another who is happily having simulated anal sex for all who care to see with Jé's woman.

The ugliness spills out into the parking lot, but, not surprisingly, there's little else to say after the arguing pair go their separate ways. For some, the question “Why make this?” will come to mind. JWR

The Nettle (Kopriva)
Piaoyu Xie
Three stars 22 min.

Love at first application

Trying to go one step better and be the life of the party, Ana (Josefína Dusková) agrees to apply some of her own makeup on boyfriend Nikola (Vojtech Hrabák) only to, inadvertently, immediately awaken his dormant homosexuality.

The premise is an interesting one but the narrative is entirely too predictable even as Ana's dad (Josef Pejchal) briefly heats up the slow-paced production. Nonetheless, the film is worth a look if only for the shot du jour when Nikola applies the lipstick himself and then reflects on the bright-red result in the mirror. JWR

7 Minutes
Assaf Machnes
Three and one half stars 14 min.

Catch-22 with a twist

Those who know Stanley Kubrick's seminal Full Metal Jacket will readily recall the famous lines: “This is my rifle. This is my gun. This is for fighting. This is for fun.” when comparing a deadly weapon to a life-creating one.

In Machnes' beat-the-clock scenario, two soldiers are just coming off detention for “abandoning my gun¾the deadly variety” but have a chance to still make the weekend getaway from camp if they can get into full dress gear in seven minutes. The premise reads better than it comes across, so the added drama of a sudden shortage of KP staff provides a welcome human element by the time their clocks have run down. JWR

Shy Guys
Frederic Lehne
Four and one half stars 8 min.

Getting in touch with your inner pee

Here's a sassy production that brings new meaning to the term “two-hander”. Shot in a men’s room urinal station with no barriers, Carl (Reed Birney) and Russel (Blake DeLong) both arrive to do their business and—after a veritable unleashed faucet immediately floods the porcelain from an imposing third man, the pair are left hanging high and dry: both suffering from Pee Shy Disorder (surely there's a pill for that).

Largely left on their own (with two hilarious interruptions from within and beyond the loo) the anxious men explore religion and sexuality, bonding in a charming way that—of course, right?—proves they are just regular guys having a shared personal moment attempting to empty their bladders.

Women will have as many laughs as the guys! JWR

Aneil Karia
Four stars 10 min.

When walking away just won't do

With all manner of road rage and bullying still rampant in every part of the planet, Karia's cautionary tale of a dad (expertly rendered by Bronson Webb) going berserk after losing his dignity in front of his precocious six-year-old daughter (Heida Nwankwo) has a great deal to say in its brief span.

At the heart of the conflict is the confrontation between the harried dad and “I dare you to do something” driver (Samuel Edward-Cook is appropriately ugly with his pokes, shoves and taunts) which ends unexpectedly in this David and Goliath showdown. As devastating as that result is, the secondary theme of people just standing by and watching (or filming as is rampant today) for fear their actions may well change their own lives forever (heroes seem to be reserved for fictional situations lately), is as understandable as it is shameful and appalling: inertia triumphs over sticking up for our fellow human beings. What if had been us under attack? JWR

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