Shadows ArchiveShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreigns, docs, videos, revivals and shorts...
On this page: FRUIT FLY | IS IT JUST ME?
< <
  V I D E O S   > >
last update 18.Oct.10
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Fruit Fly
dir-scr HP Mendoza
prd Donald Young
with LA Renigen, Mike Curtis, Aaron Zaragoza, Theresa Navarro, ES Park, HP Mendoza, Christian Cagigal, Don Wood, Michelle Talgarow, Christina Augello, Casey Ley, Sam Roemer
renigen and curtis release US 11.Aug.10,
UK 11.Oct.10 dvd
09/US 1h34
fruit fly A bright, cheeky attitude goes a long way to making this musical watchable, even if the songs aren't hugely exciting. But the film captures real feelings along the way, as well as the random eclecticism of big city life.

Performance artist Bethesda (Renigen) moves cross-country to San Francisco and rents a room in a house full of people in transition. She quickly befriends gay housemate Windham (Curtis), young artist Jacob (Zaragoza) and the bickering couple Sharon and Karen (Navarro and Park). But she's a bit overwhelmed by the city, and when things go wrong for her new show, she loses the ability to cope. Her crisis of confidence is further linked to the fact that she's never been able to find her biological mother.

The story is punctuated with frequent musical numbers that are funny, snappy and a little too similar for one to stand out. But they're cleverly observant, capturing the cosmopolitan aspect of 21st century metropolitan life, in which ethnicity and sexuality perhaps aren't such defining issues anymore. The themes addressed along the way are big ones - ranging from relationships to career ambitions - and the film recognises the difficulty we all have sorting these things out, although the tone is a bit on the glib side.

Bethesda's personal journey is both difficult and funny, as she gets tangled up with goofy artist Gaz (Cagigal) and a guy (Mendoza) she tries to hook up with Windham, to unexpected results. Along the way, her story is also surprisingly introspective, as she quietly sings, "A million possibilities, and all I want is one." So when her show loses its venue, everything does seem hopeless. Well, for a few minutes at least.

At least it's consistent good fun, especially when the characters launch into witty tirades and sassy interplay. Some of the songs have real bite, most notably in the final scenes. And while the attempt to replace the term "fag hag" with the more pleasant-sounding "fruit fly" feels a bit strained, director Mendoza keeps things playful, both visually and in the writing. In this sense, the film feels like it's capturing a colourful parallel reality we all wish we could live in.

15 themes, language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
Is It Just Me?
dir-scr JC Calciano
prd Michael Amato, JC Calciano
with Nicholas Downs, David Loren, Adam Huss, Michelle Laurent, Bob Rumnock, Bruce Gray, Michael Donahue, Bryce Blais, Lynne Chaille, Keith Roenke, Brian Schulze, Christopher King
loren and downs release US 1.Oct.10,
UK 25.Oct.10 dvd
10/US 1h33

Iris Prize Fest
is it just me Although the script touches on some recognisably real issues, this film is simply far too thin to ever grab hold. Not only is there no real tension in the twisty plot, but we never doubt where it's heading.

Blaine (Downs) is a writer for a local West Hollywood weekly newspaper. He feels deeply inadequate on the gay scene, that no one could possibly be interested in him, and he's intimidated even further by his slutty, hunky go-go dancer flatmate Cameron (Huss). Then he meets nice-guy Xander (Loren) online, but their first face-to-face meeting involves crossed wires that will be difficult to straighten out without someone's heart being broken.

The problem is that, even if we can't quite guess how they get through the mess they've created, we know exactly how everyone will end up. And writer-director Calciano simply doesn't have the experience to make this believable, indulging in trite dialog, creaky plot turns and some extremely awkward interaction. He also never generates much energy in his bright cast; they do what they can, but the film has such a slack pace that we lose patience with each scene in the movie.

That said, there are some important issues in here that will resonate with sensitive viewers who struggle with self-image issues and need some encouragement to get out there and take control of their lives. This is a real issue everywhere, not just in the gay world. And the characters are genuine people trying to get on with their lives in the best way they can. Thankfully, Calciano never moralises about all of this, although he gets dangerously close.

And yes, this is yet another American movie about sex that seems blissfully unaware how to be sexy. The phone conversations in the film's first half are embarrassingly dull, including a supposedly seductive conversation in which neither guy says anything at all. For all of the aching glances and winking innuendo, there's nothing happening beyond the over-waxed chests and over-pumped biceps. In other words, we never believe that these guys are remotely attracted to each other. Which is kind of a problem for a romantic comedy.

15 themes, language
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
dir-scr Rikki Beadle-Blair
prd Carleen Beadle, Rikki Beadle-Blair, Rebecca Joerin, Ian Sharp, Diane Shorthouse
with Ian Sharp, Jason Maza, Jay Brown, Duncan MacInnes, Rikki Beadle-Blair, Michael Lindall, Jack Shalloo, Ludvig Bonin, Nathan Clough, Stephen Hoo, Jai Rajani, Craig Storrod, Alexis Gregory, Kyle Treslove, Rebecca Joerin, Sasha Frost, Samantha Lyden
bonin and brown
release UK 4.Apr.11 dvd
10/UK 1h39

Iris Prize Fest
kickoff While this riotous football comedy is lively and packed with attitude, it's also overstuffed with characters and issues, stretching a one-hour match far beyond the breaking point. But it's engaging enough to keep us laughing.

Archer (Sharp) is the leader of a gay five-a-side football team in East London, but he wants to keep their sexuality a secret. Which isn't so easy when his teammates (Bonin, Clough, Hoo and Storrod) are so colourful. Their opponents are the feared Reapers, led by Adam (Maza) alongside his junkie brother (Shaloo), a pretty-boy metrosexual (Lindall) and a steroid-pumped rhino (Brown). As a first-time referee (MacInnes) struggles to keep things under control, they play a little football between the drama.

The main problem is that the 10 players and the ref each has his own crisis. AS do those on the sideline, including a flamboyant foster father (Beadle-Blair), two boyfriends (Gregory and Treslove) and three girlfriends (Joerin, Frost and Lyden). Their life chaos is all so hopelessly intertwined that it feels like an entire TV series has been wedged into this film. And it's too much for one movie, especially when we want to see it play out through game-playing rather than melodrama.

That said, there are some intense issues swirling around, from addiction to infidelity. And all of the characters are dealing with self-esteem issues. The fact that sexuality and sport have never mixed in popular culture is raised with an emotional reference to Justin Fashanu (the UK's only out gay professional player, who was hounded to suicide at age 37). And the clash between the sides takes on added interest when the tough straight team discovers their opponents' secret.

While filmmaker Beadle-Blair and his ensemble make their serious points, the movie's goofy tone gets a bit ridiculous. The dialogue is full of one-line zingers and the characterisations are an enjoyable blend of subverted stereotypes and attitude-filled divas. But there's a problem in the fact that, with all of the histrionics, there's not really a single genuinely likeable character. Even so, in the end we want to give all of these guys a big hug.

15 themes, language, drugs, violence
6.Oct.10 iris
back to the top R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E
The String
4/5   Le Fil
dir Mehdi Ben Attia
scr Mehdi Ben Attia, Olivier Laneurie
prd Anne-Cecile Berthomeau, Fares Ladjimi, Edouard Mauriat
with Claudia Cardinale, Antonin Stahly, Salim Kechiouche, Driss Ramdi, Ramla Ayari, Ali M'Rabet, Abir Bennani, Rihab Mejri, Lotfi Dziri, Hosni Khaled, Anissa Bediri, Djaouida Tamzali Vaughan
stahly and kechiouche
release US May.10 siff,
UK 18.Oct.10 dvd
09/Tunisia 1h33
the string Sensitive and extremely observant, this gentle romantic drama cleverly gets under the surface of North African society to tell an involving story that's infused with serious issues. It's also extremely well shot and acted.

When his father (Dziri) is taken ill, Paris architect Malik (Stahly) travels home to Tunisia to be with his mother Sara (Cardinale). She has no idea that her son is gay, but she figures it out when he starts hanging out with her handyman Bilal (Kechiouche). Meanwhile, Malik has offered to marry his lesbian friend Siryne (Ayari) so she and her partner (Bennani) can make their child legitimate. But can even these wealthy, enlightened people cope with such modern, Western ideas in a place where such things are taboo?

The filmmakers cleverly avoid wallowing in their big topics and keep the story personal, showing a side of life in a Muslim country we rarely see on screen. As a result it's easy to identify with the characters and situations. These people have broad views of culture and society, and even Sara's devout Muslim maid (Mejri) starts to understand that she can actually be friends with people who don't have the same morality as she does. Even so, these open-minded attitudes are limited to one generation back.

The point is also quietly made that discrimination on the basis of sexuality isn't actually any different that the cultural history of discrimination based on race or gender. Women and foreigners have been discriminated against for years, as Sara knows all to well. And the actors play these scenes with subtlety, revealing little truths along the way while packing the character interaction with riveting little touches.

The title refers to Malik's childhood feeling of paralysis, in which he imagines himself becoming entangled in a long string. This clearly also symbolises the connection to his family, which is both comforting and inhibiting. And yes, this comes back to haunt him as his life becomes more stressful now, making the film feel rather theatrical. But this also adds a slightly surreal touch that reminds us we're dealing with a very different culture.

15 themes, language, sexuality
back to the top Send Shadows your reviews!

< <   V I D E O S   > >
If you have an film you want me to review - just ASK

© 2010 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall