Mar 26 2010

House of Boys Review

Published by at 06:38 under English,Reviews

SOURCE: www.windycitymediagroup.com by Richard Knight, Jr. 2010-03-17

(…) The monthlong 13th Annual European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, continues with the inclusion of a familiar but winning gay coming-of-age tale titled House of Boys.

The film, set in Luxembourg and Amsterdam, begins in the winter of 1984 and follows the adventures of exuberant blonde rabble-rouser Frank ( Layke Anderson ) , who we first encounter in the stall of the men’s room in high school having sex with another boy. Free-spirited Frank sloughs off the taunts of the jocks and, before long, he and his best gal pal head for the bright lights of Amsterdam, their nearest Sin City.

Frank is soon on his own but quickly finds refuge in an all-male strip/show club called House of Boys. Udo Kier plays Madame, the drag-queen owner of the club where Frank—a blonde Guy Pearce lookalike with his tawny, muscular physicality and needle nose—quickly rises via a sexy Star Is Born/Flashdance moment to head stripper. There are elements of Cabaret, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the aforementioned Flashdance in the witty drag numbers ( which include Kier singing while dressed as Dietrich ) .

The dancers include the usual group of gay stereotypes surrounding our newbie: hardened hustler Jake from the United States who claims to be straight; the bitchy drag queen saving for a sex-change operation; the kid who is subjected to nightly beatings from his father; and the fag-hag manager/bartender who always has an empathetic ear for the boys. Then with the appearance of a spot on Jake’s face, AIDS makes its insidious entrance. Out actor Stephen Fry plays a doctor who treats Jake, who has fallen in love with Frank just as he’s struck down by the disease. The last half tracks Jake’s downward course and a deepening of the characters ( and the movie as well ) .

The early section reminded me that the ’80s were full of joyful gay liberation firsts, and it’s shot in hot, vivid colors a la Suspiria—with the club in hot reds and blues—to match the exuberant tone. Then, when sickness and death arrive, unflattering shades of green permeate. This unexpected attention to the visuals—rare in U.S. queer cinema—gives the movie an extra heft. Though the arc of the story and the expected hunks are awfully familiar, good acting, some unexpected set pieces and atypical ’80s-club soundtrack chestnuts ( Soft Cell, DAF, The The and lots of Roy Orbison ) —all handled with authority by writer-director Jean-Claude Schlim—help elevate House of Boys above the usual boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy-to-AIDS story we’ve seen many, many times before. House of Boys screens March 20 and 23; see www.siskelfilmcenter.org .

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SOURCE: www.windycitymediagroup.com by Richard Knight, Jr. 2010-03-17

(…) The monthlong 13th Annual European Union Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, continues with the inclusion of a familiar but winning gay coming-of-age tale titled House of Boys.

The film, set in Luxembourg and Amsterdam, begins in the winter of 1984 and follows the adventures of exuberant blonde rabble-rouser Frank ( Layke Anderson ) , who we first encounter in the stall of the men’s room in high school having sex with another boy. Free-spirited Frank sloughs off the taunts of the jocks and, before long, he and his best gal pal head for the bright lights of Amsterdam, their nearest Sin City.

Frank is soon on his own but quickly finds refuge in an all-male strip/show club called House of Boys. Udo Kier plays Madame, the drag-queen owner of the club where Frank—a blonde Guy Pearce lookalike with his tawny, muscular physicality and needle nose—quickly rises via a sexy Star Is Born/Flashdance moment to head stripper. There are elements of Cabaret, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and the aforementioned Flashdance in the witty drag numbers ( which include Kier singing while dressed as Dietrich ) .

The dancers include the usual group of gay stereotypes surrounding our newbie: hardened hustler Jake from the United States who claims to be straight; the bitchy drag queen saving for a sex-change operation; the kid who is subjected to nightly beatings from his father; and the fag-hag manager/bartender who always has an empathetic ear for the boys. Then with the appearance of a spot on Jake’s face, AIDS makes its insidious entrance. Out actor Stephen Fry plays a doctor who treats Jake, who has fallen in love with Frank just as he’s struck down by the disease. The last half tracks Jake’s downward course and a deepening of the characters ( and the movie as well ) .

The early section reminded me that the ’80s were full of joyful gay liberation firsts, and it’s shot in hot, vivid colors a la Suspiria—with the club in hot reds and blues—to match the exuberant tone. Then, when sickness and death arrive, unflattering shades of green permeate. This unexpected attention to the visuals—rare in U.S. queer cinema—gives the movie an extra heft. Though the arc of the story and the expected hunks are awfully familiar, good acting, some unexpected set pieces and atypical ’80s-club soundtrack chestnuts ( Soft Cell, DAF, The The and lots of Roy Orbison ) —all handled with authority by writer-director Jean-Claude Schlim—help elevate House of Boys above the usual boy-meets-boy, boy-loses-boy-to-AIDS story we’ve seen many, many times before. House of Boys screens March 20 and 23; see www.siskelfilmcenter.org .

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