Monday, January 2, 2012

review: 306

I received a comment some posts back which invited me to check out a film called "306"  after a quick email check to see if it was just some spam bot, I decided to try watching it with my partner.  The film, by Elliot London, follows a day in the life of Eric who seems to be a student with a secret of his own.  The shots are meticulously taken with nice attention to framing and color.  (I felt bad though when I thought I saw a continuity error when the phone flips from vertical to horizontal at one point when Eric receives and writes a text message).  A lot of nice camera angles populate the film, with shots that tease just enough without giving away too much.

Lovely lighting.  Really lovely use of lights and the touch of shadows.  I also like how the extras were very full of character without being caricatures or distracting.  And the locations were very nice (save for a small gripe in the end as I mentioned below).

But as impressive as the film looks, I have to admit I had some issues with it.   The lead, played by Scott-Lynch Giddings (i think since his name does come first in the credits after the Writer-Producer-Director), does have some acting chops but still needs to refine his ability to convey emotions.  The scene on the couch (which is previewed in the vimeo still image below) looked a tad more campy than was perhaps intended.    And the scenes that followed prior to the big "reveal" in the end felt overly dramatic to me.

The music was nice, although expected given the art-film approach the short has.  The choice of using Clair De Lune - Claude Debussy was kind of predictable.   I have to commend the film maker though for nicely timing the music to hit the perfect mark in the end of the short film.

I didn't quite get the need for showing how boring his student life is.  I didn't see how it related to the story at all, other than to serve as a filler til the real meat of the narrative was achieved.  Did his boredom with how school life flows lead to the latter half of the movie?   I felt it was there only to fill the space needed before the "big reveals" since the reveals affected what could be showed.

Here's the short film, for those who want to see it.  Be warned, after the video, I continue on the review with a much more spoiler filled elaboration.  So be warned.  But do find time to watch this short.  It is definitely worth a see.  Just keep in mind, there is some nudity, so it is definitely NOT safe for work.

"306" Short Gay Film from Elliot London on Vimeo.

Spoilers follow below.
Spoilers follow below.
Spoilers follow below.
Spoilers follow below.
Spoilers follow below.

I hope that's adequate warning for those who want to keep away from any spoilers from this beautifully crafter film.

And yes, I do mean that with all my heart:  This film is beautifully crafted.  The shots are like paintings in how they are composed.  The camera knows how to reveal things, whether it be the name Sam and Eric on the refrigerator door or the idea of how pressured Eric feels with the composition of the school shots.

But the film, sadly, is very deceptive.  First of all, it calls itself "306 Short Gay Film" when clearly it isn't one. The main point of the title is to deceive the viewer at the beginning and reinforce the illusion to make the end reveal gimmick work.   A gay film isn't any film that has gay sex in it.  A gay film definitely isn't any film that contains male prostitution in it.  A gay film is a film that explores the life or a part of the life of a gay person, which typically does mean the main character in the film is gay (whether it mean he already is gay, still is in the process of coming out, or is greatly in the denial phase of being gay.)  None of that seem to apply in this film at all, unless one really stretches the idea and considers Eric to be a bisexual guy in a straight relationship with a woman he loves, and is doing gay sex to make ends meet.    And that, quite frankly is a stretch of a connection to make, given how he clearly shows his devotion and love for Sam, and how guilty and dirty he feels about having done gay sex (especially reinforced by the fact he not only SHOWERS while crying in the hotel room where he did the deed, but cleans up AGAIN and washes his face while facing the mirror at home).   So does the film want us to see him as a bisexual who has chosen to live a "straighter" life but does "dirty gay sex" because they need the money?  I don't know.  The job was because he got a text message from a friend who needed him to "cover for him".  So I don't think Eric was ever forced to do this to make ends meet.   He didn't show any resignation or negative reactions to getting the message from his friend.  He did not hesitate to inform Sam that he will be late.   It sounded more like it was a job he pretty much was accustomed to doing.  Never in all the film do we ever see Eric looking at anyone else who looks remotely gorgeous in the movie.  So his sexuality is pretty much the straightest man a straight man can be.   Or at least a bisexual guy who is 100% devoted to his woman that he'd get fucked for the money they need.  (But since he's studying  and since she left early, the idea is she's working, do they need the money?)

Again, what makes this a gay short film?  Does a blow job between men immediately make a film a gay film?  Does a film exploring a straight guy doing gay sex make this a gay film?  Is he a closeted bisexual who loves his woman, but loves gay sex, then has an emotional guilty moment each time after he gets his gay hunger fed?  Or did the film maker really just want to have his "Aha!" moment by calling this a short gay film, when in truth, it isn't?

What does the film want to say?

Which brings me to the title.  Maybe this is all because I don't get what the title means either.  It could be a cultural thing, or a reference I didn't quite grasp.  But a quick attempt to see what 306 can mean brings up this list, this list, and this list.  I know 306 is an area code in Canada too, so I wonder if the title was meant to refer to that.  I can imagine the title could have attempted to be very symbolic and refer to 360, or a full circle, but not reaching that point.  The guy fails to completely turn gay again or something.  But that feels pushing it.  Was it the amount of money he gets?  When the cash is handed to Eric's waiting hand, it does look like a wad of bills and some coins.  Funny though to have six dollars in change.  I guess prostitution has its own taxes to cover?

A quick gripe too on how in the end, we see Eric get home, with his bag in hand, and seemingly blocks the door open with his bag, then uses the bathroom and comes out from the general same spot, making him look like that door was also the door to the bathroom.  I know there's supposed to be a bathroom door somewhere off cam on the right, but that was sort of a sloppy shot.    Not to mention the way he walks in with his bag makes you think the door was a door from the hallway.  But since he keeps it open, it makes one realize it should be a door from the living room or something.  Argh.

So over-all, I will end this review this way:

To Ramblergirl, thank you for sharing me the link and asking me to take a look at it.  I do apologize if my review above might not be all to your liking, but I do believe you would all appreciate honesty rather an a generic response of flattery that did not try to really look into your work and appreciate it.

To Elliot London, I will again say I admire your sense of composition and the use of the camera.  I love the technical aspects of your work.  I do still wonder what message was intended and why the film has to be labeled a gay short film.   I worry that some might even take offense and accuse you of exploiting the term gay.  I hope it has not come to that.    And I do look forward to seeing more of your work someday.  Hopefully with more thought given to the writing and how over-all a message is delivered.  But kudos and congratulations on this creation :-)  Making films is never easy.  Nor is the inevitable receipt of how viewers react.  But hey, you've gotten over 60,000 views already in barely two weeks.  That is still cause for celebration!

And to everyone else, I do recommend you watch the film.  You might like how the story is portrayed and what techniques were used in telling the story.  Definitely worth checking out.


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