Judge Jesse Ataide wonders why gay film compilations always manage to come up with the lamest titles imaginable.
"A massively entertaining package of gay short films about guys falling for guys."
The simple title of Boy Crush serves as a good summation of the modest charms this international collection of gay-themed short films provides. Most, though not all, revolve around common premises that are more or less staples of GLBT cinema: the indecision of coming out, fear of rejection, unrequited crushes and awkward confrontations. A few seem a bit out of synch with the general theme of the collection, and several are more ambitious than others, which means that overall this collection is a bit of a mixed bag. The first four shorts adhere strongest to the "boy crush" theme and are among the best the collection has to offer. Summer (2006, Great Britain) involves two best friends hanging out together one afternoon in a forest, and in the isolated location their conversation grows increasingly candid about sex. That is, until one of the boys makes a shocking admission that the other wasn't expecting. Seemingly taking its cues in both character and tone from the seminal coming-out classic Beautiful Thing, at first glance the subtle, meandering Summer comes off as the least developed short in this collection, but there's a surprising resonance to be found in its delicate suggestiveness. Night Swimming (2005, USA) is another variation on the old "unrequited crush on a straight best friend" story. From the very start, it's obvious that the introverted, artistic Otter (Bobby Steggart) has no chance with his outgoing best friend Darby (Damon Cardasis), who wears his dominant heterosexuality on his sleeve. But things take an unexpected turn when a planned road trip stalls and the subsequent night spent riverside (with quite a bit of alcohol is thrown into the mix) leaves their friendship in an awkward, confused state that it's probably unlikely to ever recover from. Like Summer, Night Swimming takes a few minutes to establish its low-key rhythm, but ultimately the payoff is rewarding.
The more I think about it, the more I like Running Without Sound (2004, USA). At first, it's hard to get a handle on what's going on, particularly because director Judd King refuses to explicitly state that the protagonist, Derek (Trace Barnes), is deaf. As Derek's attraction to his teammate on the school cross country team becomes more obvious, his deafness adds an additional wrinkle to the situation. Communication with those who don't know sign language is already a difficult task, but on top of that Derek struggles find a way to express his conflicted feelings to the object of his affections. King somehow manages to resolve this tense situation with disarmingly simple, satisfying conclusion that is probably the most beautifully realized sequence found in any of the films on this disc.
Out Now (2005, Germany) relies heavily on the tired stereotype of the lonely, effeminate high school student who is mercilessly tormented by his peers. Like most isolated gay teenagers, he turns to the internet as a means of connecting with others, but when a run-in with his internet crush turns out to be a disaster, he realizes happiness might lie with the cute boy with beautiful blue eyes who works at the candy kiosk around the corner. Although slickly made and nicely acted, Out Now doesn't offer many surprises, and as a result it pales in comparison to most of the other shorts in this collection.
After the four films, Boy Crush seems to switch its focus, and if the first four could be loosely characterized as stories of teenage boys struggling to come to grips with their sexuality (and expressing it to others), the final three shorts are anything but, and their inclusion in this collection seems a bit baffling.
The most mysterious short in the collection is the The Bridge ( Australia). Flashily edited and directed, The Bridge revolves around a happy couple torn apart by Australian immigration laws. A lot of brief glimpses into the couple's story are offered up to help explain the enigmatic title, but by the time the film concludes, it seems a little unsatisfying. Sure, the general gist can be grasped, but some more information to achieve some resonance would certainly have been appreciated.
Hitchcocked (2006, USA ) is an homage to the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock, particularly the infamous Psycho shower scene. In eight quick minutes, it manages to create some patently Hitchcockian suspense as a casual internet hookup begins to go horribly wrong. I'm not sure if it's quite as clever as it thinks it is, but it certainly manages to quicken the heart rate for a few minutes.
If The Bridge and Hitchcocked seem a bit out of place in this collection, the futuristic Oedipus [N+1] (2003, France) is on a different level entirely. Clocking in at almost a half hour, it's the longest short in this collection, and judging from appearances, it had a budget that was probably more than all of the other shorts in this collection put together (if it's not as expensive at it looks, writer/director Eric Rognard certainly qualifies as a genius of some kind). Brimming with ideas and fascinating concepts, it's adapted from a novel by Jean-Jacques Nguyen. It's a brief but engrossing foray into a dystopian society where class distinctions have been taken to an extreme, with the wealthy, privileged upper class literally living above the rest of humanity in elegant structures suspended high above the dirty, squalid conditions everyone else is forced to endure. The story follows Thomas Steiner (Jalil Lespert, La Petit Lieutenant), a recently deceased young man who has been brought back to life via radical technological advances, only to find that his wealthy, doting mother (Nicole Jamet, El Pari) completely denies the existence of the man he had fallen in love with (in fact, she denies that he was gay at all, claiming he had a beautiful fiancee). The plot twists around, culminating in a completely unexpected conclusion. The film is not so much of a sci-fi take on the Greek tale of Oedipus as much as it is a complete inversion of the classic Greek myth, and seems like a project that is meant to be expanded some point into a feature length film. But one way or the other, Oedipus [N+1] sticks out of this collection like a sore thumb. That's not to say it's not an extremely impressive achievement (because it is), I just question its inclusion on this disc.
The image quality of Boy Crush is fine overall, with the notable exception of the first film Summer, which has some major issues with pixilation (at first I thought it was a problem with my DVD player, but the problems never occurred again). The audio track is serviceable. If there are any bonus features, the promotional copy of this DVD that I reviewed did not include any, and at the time of writing I could not find any additional information indicating whether or not the retail disc would. English subtitles accompany the two shorts not spoken in English (the German Out Now and French Oedipus [N+1]), though I suspect a number of viewers would have appreciated subtitles for the thickly accented English spoken in Summer.
The question is whether or not Boy Crush is a DVD worthy of purchase. I'm not entirely convinced that it is, though Oedipus [N+1] is interesting enough on its own and I quite enjoyed the first three shorts. Boy Crush is essentially a mixed bag, and a modest one at that, though that's not to say there's not a few minor treasures worth seeking out.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Wolfe Video
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