Short and Sweet-and-Sour

The disparate tales of Boys Life 3 showcase the flourishing art of the gay short film

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 usually was easy enough, as these 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 is there a whole network of gay and lesbian film festivals at which to show shorts, now canny distributors have taken to assembling programs of them to showcase as a package. After these compilations have been 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, one can easily see the makers of these five shorts going on 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 offscreen narrator discusses the lives of three comic-striplike figures -- Catherine, Laurent, and Vincent -- and the world in which they live, drawing bizarre analogies between the trio: cosmonauts in space, majorettes on earth, and the pope. Being heterosexual, Catherine and Laurent have relatively uncomplicated sex lives, as opposed to Vincent, who is gay and 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 Vincent may not live out the year.

Five short films add up to a minor art form that's flourishing
Five short films add up to a minor art form that's flourishing

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Includes films directed by David Fourier, Bradley Rust Gray, Jason Gould, Lane Janger, and Gregory Cooke. Starring Jason Gould, Sara Gilbert, Alexis Arquette, Guillermo Díaz, and Erik MacArthur.

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"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 event 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 Elliot 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 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, while it's just a comic jape, "Inside Out" 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 him up with. And that's not to mention his attendance at Survivors of Celebrity Parents, a twelve-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 who wants his girlfriend to make love with another woman 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 already has 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 sixteen-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 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. Competently directed by Gregory Cooke, "$30" was written by Christopher B. Landon, the late actor Michael Landon's son, who was outed by a tabloid around the time of his father's death. Combine Landon's solid writing with that of Jason Gould, and you get a strong subtheme built into the larger theme of the program. It's always nice when that happens.

 
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