Dec 01 2011

Boy-toy melodrama

Published by at 15:32 under Articles,Deal Production,English

SOURCE : http://www.ebar.com/arts/art_article.php?sec=film&article=943 – by David Lamble

There are guilty pleasures, cautionary tales and exploitation fantasies, but it’s a challenge to review a new gay film that is a giddy mixture of all three done in a gaudy soft-core style that will prove catnip to some and insect repellent to others. The new Luxembourg-produced queer dance-club flick House of Boys (Friday at the Roxie) kicks off in a high school locker room with a piquant exchange of bodily fluids. A dark-haired young man, whose greasy hairdo would have earned him a chorus slot in an Elvis swivel-hips fest, sashays in, puts out his cigarette with a glob of spit, and proceeds to pop a pimple into the mirror. His blonde buddy swoops down and wipes the pus off with a nimble finger, and the duo waltz out to the lockers, where they encounter a nasty gaggle of towel-clad straight hooligans. There’s an almost-rumble, prevented by the pimply lad’s waving a switchblade. Then we leave the school and never again set eyes on those brutish locker jocks.

Not to accuse the creators of House of Boys of dramatic cock-teasing, but this ambitious, candy-colored melodrama (co-written and directed by Jean-Claude Schlim, with Bob Graham) seems to have been hatched by an imagination overstimulated by too many viewings of Fassbinder’s Querelle, with a frisky cast recruited from Euro-Boy models.

A luridly lit den of go-go dancers is ruled by Madam, a world-weary club owner played with a mix of cynical detachment and mother-hen fussiness by Udo Kier (the German tourist from My Own Private Idaho ). This comes off as an enter-at-your-own-risk frat house for boys in transition: fresh-faced high school dropouts like blonde boy Frank (comely Layke Anderson, whose emotional range expands as his character confronts some dark moments), jaded straight boys like the limber dancer Jake (Benn Northoven), Mohawk-sporting “bad boys” who get the best tips, and the occasional hardcore queen saving up for a sex change (scene-stealing Steven Webb). The cast does justice to the Melrose Place -worthy plot, and with the help of a solid 80s soundtrack highlighted by Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and a Roy Orbison medley, the first hour is good clean fun as we root for Frank to convert Jake. After a while you get used to the cast speaking an accented Queen’s English shading into Eurotrash Esperanto.

Huge spoiler alert: the fun and games end abruptly when Jake comes down with full-blown AIDS, and Frank’s love and loyalty are put to the test. For those who didn’t live through ground zero of the epidemic, this is a simple but honest account, laced with a Rookie League version of Atom Egoyan’s plot-shuffling shenanigans from the vastly superior Exotica. I have no quibbles with how the cast and filmmakers travel down this tunnel with no light at the end. There’s no cheap sensationalism, and we do come to admire characters who in the first act may have seemed mere lollipop boys. There is definitely something to build on here. Fittingly, House of Boys arrives a day after World AIDS Day.

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SOURCE : http://www.ebar.com/arts/art_article.php?sec=film&article=943 – by David Lamble

There are guilty pleasures, cautionary tales and exploitation fantasies, but it’s a challenge to review a new gay film that is a giddy mixture of all three done in a gaudy soft-core style that will prove catnip to some and insect repellent to others. The new Luxembourg-produced queer dance-club flick House of Boys (Friday at the Roxie) kicks off in a high school locker room with a piquant exchange of bodily fluids. A dark-haired young man, whose greasy hairdo would have earned him a chorus slot in an Elvis swivel-hips fest, sashays in, puts out his cigarette with a glob of spit, and proceeds to pop a pimple into the mirror. His blonde buddy swoops down and wipes the pus off with a nimble finger, and the duo waltz out to the lockers, where they encounter a nasty gaggle of towel-clad straight hooligans. There’s an almost-rumble, prevented by the pimply lad’s waving a switchblade. Then we leave the school and never again set eyes on those brutish locker jocks.

Not to accuse the creators of House of Boys of dramatic cock-teasing, but this ambitious, candy-colored melodrama (co-written and directed by Jean-Claude Schlim, with Bob Graham) seems to have been hatched by an imagination overstimulated by too many viewings of Fassbinder’s Querelle, with a frisky cast recruited from Euro-Boy models.

A luridly lit den of go-go dancers is ruled by Madam, a world-weary club owner played with a mix of cynical detachment and mother-hen fussiness by Udo Kier (the German tourist from My Own Private Idaho ). This comes off as an enter-at-your-own-risk frat house for boys in transition: fresh-faced high school dropouts like blonde boy Frank (comely Layke Anderson, whose emotional range expands as his character confronts some dark moments), jaded straight boys like the limber dancer Jake (Benn Northoven), Mohawk-sporting “bad boys” who get the best tips, and the occasional hardcore queen saving up for a sex change (scene-stealing Steven Webb). The cast does justice to the Melrose Place -worthy plot, and with the help of a solid 80s soundtrack highlighted by Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and a Roy Orbison medley, the first hour is good clean fun as we root for Frank to convert Jake. After a while you get used to the cast speaking an accented Queen’s English shading into Eurotrash Esperanto.

Huge spoiler alert: the fun and games end abruptly when Jake comes down with full-blown AIDS, and Frank’s love and loyalty are put to the test. For those who didn’t live through ground zero of the epidemic, this is a simple but honest account, laced with a Rookie League version of Atom Egoyan’s plot-shuffling shenanigans from the vastly superior Exotica. I have no quibbles with how the cast and filmmakers travel down this tunnel with no light at the end. There’s no cheap sensationalism, and we do come to admire characters who in the first act may have seemed mere lollipop boys. There is definitely something to build on here. Fittingly, House of Boys arrives a day after World AIDS Day.

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