Film Review: NQV’s The French Boys [Short Collection]

NQV continue their global celebration of queer cinema with their latest collection, The French Boys. The first of four upcoming short collections dropped on Monday with five diverse short films exploring different facets of the queer experience. So raise the tricolour and get blasting some Dalida to prepare yourself for the first slice of The French Boys.

Opening short So Long Paris from writer-director Charles Dudoignon-Valade sees a young child come to terms with the divorce of her parents. To make matters more challenging for her to understand, the discovery that her father is now in a same-sex relationship adds further layer of complexity. The perfect opening short presents a stunning Parisian summer through the eyes of a child – the city looks incredible as Dudoignon-Valade captures the striking architecture of the city and the charm of its eclectic residents. The filmmaker does an impressive job at capturing a child unable to grasp the complexities of adult life as she tries to comprehend her father’s new life.

Filmmaker Josza Anjembe presents Prison, the second of the shorts, capturing twenty-year old prison inmate Issa as he strikes up a relationship with new inmate Gaëtan just days before his imminent release, Prison captures the simmering tension of the prison experience with Anjembe exploring the pressure cooker environment as inmates head to their release – attempting to stay on the right path. Actor Alassane Diong is an impressive presence as Issa – the quiet inmate surviving in the aggressive hierarchies of the prison system where gay men are pushed to no end of extremes. This is a powerful, claustrophobic piece that stands as one of the strongest in the collection.

Guillaume Mainguet’s Vincent Before Noon follows a challenging familial relationship with the reunion of an estranged father and son reopening old wounds. The claustrophobic short takes place in an apartment laden with removal boxes where Vincent is going through a period of unrest and transition. His father, going through his own health troubles, arrives – similarly vulnerable – as the short explores the complexities of family dynamics. Mainguet co-writes with Yona Rozenkier with this short capturing the sometimes surprising bonds of family in times of need and crisis.

Penultimate short Sunset Cemetery from Roman Kané is something of a sombre one as it captures the turbulent life of Joseph, an unhappy young man with a skill for masking it. The day his brother dies, Joseph becomes sure he will miss out on the joys of life so opens up to desire one evening. Taking a dark subject matter and using it to explore a sense of joie de vivre, Sunset Cemetery is an emotive short bolstered by a strong leading turn from Quentin Dolmaire.

Family gets put under the microscope once again for final short Beauty Boys from writer-director Florent Gouëlou. It’s a strong conclusion to the set as it explores the relationship between two brothers – one a flamboyant young performer making his starting moves as an amateur drag queen, the other, a rugged straight troublemaker who is an aspiring rapper. Capturing the sense of confidence and armour that drag can provide to queer people – especially those battling oppressive small-town communities, Beauty Boys tugs at the heartstrings in its exploration of brotherhood. A Todrick Hall soundtrack, positive resolution, and the flat out gorgeous Marvin Dubart help this short really shine.

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