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french kisses French Kisses
For this collection of gay-themed shorts, TLA turns to France, and the films are all rather full-on. They're all expertly produced to a very high standard, and all of them are indulgent in one way or another - one goes far over the top in this sense. But they also take a provocative approach to themes of love and longing, finding unusual things to say and leaving us with plenty to think about.
release US/UK 8.Jan.18 • 18/France TLA 1h57               15 themes, language, violence, sexuality • 6-14.Jan.18
Apollon   3/5  
dir-scr Loic Dimitch
with Victor Laupin, Romain Brigaud, Christine Garrivet, Eliseo Di Concetto, Damien Millot, Emanuele Arioli, Ghedalia Fort
16/France 8m
Apollon Witty and very brightly coloured, this short follows teen Apollon (Laupin) as he tries to impress the swimmers at a public pool by stuffing a sock his swim trunks. But this only leads to humiliation in front of the hunky lifeguard whose attention he was trying to catch. Later, he lets his banana-based fantasies run wild, while worrying about his thin, hairless body and what he thinks is his inadequate manhood. The films candy-coloured production adds a witty slant to what is otherwise a remarkably dark story of a young man struggling with his image of masculinity. It's all a bit slight, but it contains a bold comment on the pressure from both people and the culture at large to look a certain way. And in this sense, perhaps the film will encourage people to accept themselves and take on the world on their own terms.
Ruptures (or André and Gabriel)   4/5   (ou André et Gabriel)
dir-scr Francisco Bianchi
with Pierre Moure, Bruno Stierli, Nina Meurisse , Elsa Canovas, Angele Beraud, Lucie Clayssen, Charly Gosp, Andreas Kuhn
16/France 18m
moure and stierli
ruptures Mixing drama with documentary, this short features young people in Paris discussing their breakups and how they felt about them. Quickly, a narrative develops centring on filmmaker Gabriel (Moure) and his ex Andre (Stierli), who he spots wandering in the background of another interview. He invites him home for his own interview about how they met and separated when Gabriel was an exchange student in Brazil, then secretly films their encounter before they sit down and talk about how they have changed in the past 10 years. The film is packed with telling commentary as people discuss how being in a relationship changed them and their social lives, then how they split from the partners, dealt with the pain and picked up the pieces. Through all of this, there's a clever fantastical flourish involving balloons, tapping into the inner feelings between Gabriel and Andre, things they never said to each other, and how their breakup affected them. Nicely, it ends on a positive note as they decide to try to get things right.
Body of Angels   2/5   Le Corps des Anges
dir-scr Benoit Duvette
with Brandon Waret, Gabriel Garnier, Baptiste Legros, Mathieu Riboulet, Jean Marcel Crusiaux, Alain Duclos, Fabienne Winne, Marie Polet
16/Fr 30m
body of angels Ambitious and more than a little pretentious, this short indulges in rather a lot of symbolism as writer-director Duvette does everything he can to keep the audience outside whatever story there is. It looks amazing, photographed skilfully in vivid locations and performed with raw intensity by the cast. It centres on Remi (Waret), a young farmer pressured by his parents to find a girlfriend, but he just roams the fields and lounges in the grass. Meanwhile, Gabriel (Garnier) is similarly drifting, cutting a hole in his abdomen to let his yearnings out. These two young men are clearly on a collision course, but when they meet it's all about their parents - Gabriel's died in an accident, while Remi has quietly shot his. All of this is so obtuse that it's impossible to engage with, although there is a moody atmosphere that captures the longing these young men are feeling. Still, the metaphors are so heavy-handed that they're painful.
Electric July   3.5/5  
dir Remi Bigot
scr Remi Bigot, Francois Peyroux
with Nathan Bobet, Remi Chaudiere, Sophie Froissard, Florimont Constant
14/France 24m
Electric July With a slightly aloof style, this film leaves a lot to the viewer's imagination, including its central themes. It centres on two young teens, Thomas and Victor (Bobet and Chaudiere), who are hanging out during the summer holidays, horsing around in the pool and running through the cornfields. Victor is constantly coming up with things to do that make Thomas nervous, but Thomas clearly has an unspoken crush on his best friend. So he agrees to head out to see what Victor calls an "amazing place", where an endless viaduct crosses a valley. What follows is a little surreal and under-developed, but it's a fascinating look at a teen trying to work up the courage to express himself. Victor keeps testing Thomas, and ultimately it's Thomas who proves to be braver than his friend. It's all a little obscure, as director Bigot kind of hedges away from the central theme, leaving ideas floating in the air. But he captures a lovely sense of summery adventure and adolescent curiosity.
Herculaneum   4.5/5   Herculanum
dir-scr Arthur Cahn
with Jeremie Elkaim, Arthur Cahn
16/France 21m
elkaim and cahn
Herculaneum In three fairly simple scenes, this short film cleverly peels back the layers of its two characters, exposing some hard truths about why dating can be such a scary thing to do. Set in Paris, it opens as Leo (played by writer-director Cahn) climbs the stairs to meet Marc (Elkaim) in his flat. After having a drink and a chat, they get down to business and say goodbye, just after Marc reveals that he has a boyfriend. Weeks later, they meet again in Leo's home, again quickly stripping off. But they also have a chat about their past hookups. Finally, they're together again, sleeping overnight for the first time, asking each other much more probing questions. They also get onto the subject of Herculaneum, a city destroyed along with Pompeii, leaving couples frozen in history. Both actors deliver natural, open performances that feel strikingly real, especially in their developing chemistry. Both are likeable and charming, comveying how conversation can be far more intimate than sex. Indeed, the script is strikingly honest, packed with resonant feelings and revealing comments, cutting sharply through the emptiness of a cutlure of hook-up apps.
In Return   4/5   En Retour
dir Benjamin Wacksmann
scr Benjamin Wacksmann, Thibaut Wacksmann
with Pierre Carrive, Thibaut Wacksmann
13/France 17m
wacksmann and carrive
Boys Dark and provocative, this short film has a thriller vibe as it follows an encounter between Jean-Marc (Carrive), a middle-aged man, and his rentboy Simon (Wacksmann). They haven't seen each other for months when Simon turns up for dinner, and they catch up before heading to the bedroom. But as Simon is showering, things begin to take a turn. Is this a role-play in which Simon pretends to attack and rob Jean-Marc? Or is he really in need of cash to pay off some debts? The film plays out intriguingly, with solid performances from both men, who add continual surprises to each scene. Even as things turn nasty, there are constant twists. And the affection between them is undeniable, although perhaps Simon is putting that on as well. It's beautifully shot and edited, with clever touches and just a touch of enigmatic storytelling.

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