We were delighted with recent The French Boys, the latest short collection from NQV, who quickly follow this with the second part of the collection, The French Boys 2. With a further two chapters scheduled for early 2022, NQV celebrate the diverse, emotionally intelligent and vibrant culture of French shorts with each of these presenting an intriguing take on the queer experience.
Falling (Dir. Benjamin Vu)
The pairing of school sports star Baptise (Jean-Baptiste Le Vaillant) and quiet studios Léo (Solal Forte) as part of a literature project initially strikes as the combination of two polar opposites – yet a meeting in the winter of 1994 in the French suburbs highlights some common ground. Léo is bullied by pupils regarding his sexuality whilst Baptise seems a semi-popular boy with classmates and girls alike. These boys occupy two different worlds yet a quiet contemplative evening between the pair forces each to question preconceived notions of the other. With an elegant jazz soundtrack, swanky suburban locale, and understated internalised performances from Le Vaillant and Forte which hint at potentially more than meets the eye initially, Falling is an intoxicating piece.
Gentle moments of bonding and fleeting gazes from Baptise pose numerous questions. Does the sports star harbour feelings for Léo? Is he intrigued by the possibility of the evening transforming into something more? Or is he simply wishing to make amends for the cruelty that Léo suffers in school? Vu has crafted an inviting short examining youthful uncertainty and teenage longing that poses a number of intriguing, investing questions.
The Return (Dir. Yohann Kouam)
Fifteen year old Willy (Adama Procida) is delighted by the return of his older brother Theo (Yann Gael) who left to go travelling the year before. The return of Theo is welcome as Willy is on the cusp of falling in with a bad crowd at school, however, the teenager faces further unrest after discovering a secret about his brother. Yohann Kouam’s short examines the power of brotherhood and male gender expectations – impeccably doing so from the eyes of a fifteen year old. Willy being pushed into troublemaking by a culture of machismo and gangs, paired with a struggle to communicate emotions verbally sees his relationship with Theo transition from one of brotherly bonding to one with an uncomfortable bitterness.
Kouam crafts an emotionally tense battleground with Theo unaware that his brother has witnessed him in the arms of a male lover. The subsequent spiralling of Willy’s emotions showcases the sense of homophobia ingrained within the psyche of some men – ultimately explored in an uncomfortable scene in the short’s final moments.
Footing (Dir. Damien Gault)
The barriers that form between distant father Jean-Claude and son Marco are examined in Footing from writer-director Damien Gault. Set as the pair run through the French rural countryside making gentle conversation about lives, relationships and nostalgia, Footing is gently comic and quietly heartwarming treat. Marco has recently suffered a bad break-up in Paris, whilst his father is fresh into his retirement after serving as a police chief – both men are at transition point in their lives – with natural walls forming through their distance and differing lifestyles. Yet Footing centres on Marco and Jean-Claude once again quite literally finding their footing with one another in the often quietly awkward manner with which fathers and gay sons tend to – not through blatant questioning but inoffensively skirting round issues. Footing centres on a love which is always there, but is sometimes not as easily evident as it should be.
The Swimming Trunks (Dir. Mathilde Bayle)
The first feelings of confusion and intrigue upon acknowledging your sexuality are explored with a rich sensitivity in Mathilde Bayle’s short The Swimming Trunks which centres on ten year old Remi on a camping holiday with his parents. Remi begins to realise he is intrigued and fascinated by Stephan (Stanley Weber), the father of one of his playmates. Bayle builds up Remi’s quiet introspective intrigue at Stephan – the dashing father who has the physique and defined cheekbones of a model, a stark transition from Remi’s inoffensively ordinary family. Bayle patiently gives us a glimpse into Remi’s curiosity and perplexing emotions with regards to Stephan capturing a childlike sense of intrigue and confusion.