Short and Sweet-and-Sour
Outside avant-garde or experimental showcases, short dramatic films used to be little more than a means to an end -- a risky route to an uncertain mainstream future. Getting one made was usually easy enough, as those things go. The hard part was getting it shown -- especially if you were out to impress someone with the power to green-light that feature you've spent half your life dreaming about.
But in recent years, when it comes to gay and lesbian subject matter, shorts have become less a means than an end in themselves. For not only does a whole network of gay and lesbian film festivals in which to show shorts exist, now canny distributors have taken to assembling programs of them to showcase as packages. After these programs are made available theatrically, they hit the video stores, where they gain even larger audiences, and as a result the gay short is a flourishing minor art form. The films in the program Boys Life 3, which range in length from 6 to 27 minutes, testify to that fact most effectively. Though produced in wildly different circumstances over the past few years, these five shorts will undoubtedly lead their makers to bigger things -- at least as far as dramatic length is concerned. But that doesn't take away from the truth of the cliché that brevity is the soul of wit.
In "Majorettes in Space," the sole foreign-language item on the program, writer-director David Fourier uses the French in Action television program as a satirical model. An off-screen narrator discusses the lives of three comic strip like figures -- a heterosexual couple and a homosexual man -- and the world in which they live, making bizarre analogies among the trio: cosmonauts in space, majorettes on Earth, and the pope. The straight man and woman have relatively uncomplicated sexual lives, as opposed to the gay man, who is HIV-positive. Cosmonauts, majorettes and the pope don't have sex, the narrator informs us solemnly, going on to note that the pope, who doesn't approve of condoms, lives in airports and communicates with invisible beings in space. Sort of like a cosmonaut. This cheeky giddiness is undercut by the fact that the gay character may not live out the year.
"Hitch," directed by Bradley Rust Gray, takes a different tack entirely. A miniature road movie about a pair of too-cool dudes (Drew Wood and Jason Herman), it mixes the atmosphere of Gus Van Sant's Mala Noche with the sexual tension of early Gregg Araki (Three Bewildered People in the Night) as it highlights the way in which the "out" member of the pair goes about seducing his closeted friend. Or is it the other way around? In either case this little movie packs an emotional and sexual wallop.
"Inside Out" is doubtless the centerpiece of this collection in that it's written, directed by, and stars Jason Gould (son of Elliott Gould and Barbra Streisand), and deals in comic form with what actually happened to him when he was outed by a tabloid several years ago. Though Gould has a career as an actor (Say Anything, The Big Picture, and his mother's dramatic magnum opus, The Prince of Tides), "Inside Out" suggests he has talent as a writer as well. He's certainly deserving of praise just for being able to find humor in the unique circumstance of being Streisand's openly gay son. But beyond that "Inside Out," while it's just a comic jape, deserves mention in the history books as the very first movie to dare to make fun of Scientology. Gould's encounter with an E-meter ("A religious artifact," he is informed when inquiring about this cockamamie pseudo lie detector) is alone worth the price of admission. But then so are the scenes of disastrous dates his best pal (Alexis Arquette, who else?) sets up for him. And that's not to mention his attendance at Survivors of Celebrity Parents, a 12-step workshop presided over by Christina Crawford. "Are you biological?" a fellow fame-damaged offspring asks him. I'm sure that won't be the last time you'll hear that line.
"Just One Time" by Lane Janger, the penultimate film on the program, is a very brief joke about turnabout being fair play for a guy (Janger) who wants his girlfriend (Joelle Carter) to make love with another woman (Jennifer Esposito) while he watches. I don't think you'll need any help in guessing how this one ends up. But in case you do, this short has already been expanded into a feature set for release next year.
The last Boys Life 3 offering, "$30," isn't a joke at all. It's a sobering little vignette about a 16-year-old (Erik MacArthur) whose father (Greg Itzen) thinks a visit to a hooker is all that's needed to straighten out his gay son. Proving that her lengthy stint on Roseanne was no fluke, Sara Gilbert plays the worldly and wise call girl who guesses what's up with her reluctant client the minute he walks in the room and gives him some much-needed advice. Well directed by Gregory Cooke, "$30" was written by Christopher Landon, who was outed by a tabloid around the time of the death of his father, actor Michael Landon. Combine Christopher Landon's solid writing with that of Jason Gould, and you get a strong subtheme built right in to the larger theme of the program. It's always nice when that happens.
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