March 15, 2010

Asian Queer Shorts

Reviewer: James Van Maanen
Rating (out of 5): ***

Do you have to be an Asian queer to appreciate Asian Queer Shorts? I don't think so. Though this relatively new compilation of five short films from Strand Releasing is a mixed bag by and about Asian homosexual men, nothing in it reaches rock-bottom -- though I do wish the final and longest film were a bit better. Totaling around 85 minutes of "movie," AQS more or less delivers.

The first of the shorts, Still, from writer/director Lucky Kuswandi, is a quiet, rich fourteen minutes of cruising, thinking and yearning, in which a handsome young man does all of the above to some nice poetry, music and visuals. In a word: beautiful.

Last Full Show, from Filipino filmmaker Mark V. Reyes, begins with a couple of queens at their favorite movie theater/cruising spot. They reminisce and bitch a bit until one of them spots a cute young man. The older guy follows the younger, sits next to him, chats him up and then – romance is in the air. But there are many bridges to cross, as the cliché has it, before we find out enough about this twinkie to realize...but you'll see. I would guess Mr. Reyes will be heard from again, and in longer format.

An art film of sorts, Kevin Choi's thirteen-minute Dissolution Of Bodies offers, in addition to the usual, some semi-interesting gay philosophizing. Photographed in black-and-white, this romp in bed between two would-be maybe lovers, one of whom is perhaps keener on the idea than the other, is full of nice photography, some charm and two attractive men. And, yes, that philosophical conversation.

In just thirteen minutes, Park Hyun-jin tackles Korea's distant past as His Majesty and his court argue over the time of proper morning while a love affair surreptitiously begins. The stately and elegant little film A Crimson Mark is also awfully slight – perhaps, though it appears to be a "short," it is because it really is an audition for the full-length movie most likely burgeoning in Mr. Park's fertile mind. I hope we see that version someday soon.

The final film, alluded to earlier, comes from Raymond Yong and is called Yellow Fever. It strives for, but only rarely achieves the stylish wit and smart, "faggy" humor that might lift it to the level of a latter-day Oscar Wilde/Noel Coward. Much of it falls flat, though the plotting and pacing isn't bad, even if the performances run the gamut from OK to not-so-good. This one's cute, sweet and obvious, but in its very obviousness, it may be the one film here that rings the bell for the great, gay unwashed masses.

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Posted by cphillips at March 15, 2010 4:18 PM
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