Two Short Films on One DVD
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 05/28/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Joseph Graham both wrote and directed the first of the two short films on this DVD. He has some interesting ideas both textually and visually and manages to condense into 47 minutes a film that packs a wallop.
'VANILLA' is anything but vanilla, if the term refers to the dichotomies between vanilla and kinky in the usual sense. A young lad Jeff (Ryan A. Allen) is a highschool photographer who happens upon the kneeling suicide victim body of a beefy serial killer in the Bay Area. Questioned by the police and his father, he becomes obsessed with the string of murders linked to sexual encounters with young men, and his curiosity contributes to an art project as well as his own drive to experience how the murders took place. Just how far his curiosity leads him is the fairly dramatic conclusion to this short film. The acting is pretty 'basic' cum weak, and the acting out of the trysts is heavy, but Graham does use his story as a romance with the camera: the film is appropriately shot in both black and white and color with the uses of each more important than they first appear.
'A LITTLE COMFORT' ('Just un pea de recon fort...') is a brief 36 minute French film by director Armand Lamellose that employs better actors and better cinematography, and actually a better story. Arnaud (Arthur Moncla) is a young teenager coping with his attraction to the popular hunk Guillaume (Remi Bresson) who has a steady girlfriend. Arnaud imitates his idol trying cigarettes, alcohol and sex, finds a girlfriend, but when both girls leave their beaus, Guillaume (whose mother is dying and who has no family) seeks refuge with Arnaud, whose mother is more than happy to have Arnaud's 'best friend' stay with them rather than in a foster home. At last, in the comfort zone, away from the outside world, Arnaud and Guillaume bond, fall in love, and actually fit into the society that they feared would ostracize them. OR is this little tale merely the acting out of a dream for the tender little Arnaud....it is up to the audience to decide.
Films such as these, though each feel like works in progress, at least serve the intelligence of the film audience well. It has not been very long since such films would have never made it to the shelves of Amazon.com or the video stores. The success of 'Brokeback Mountain' has opened a lot of windows, and for that we should be grateful. Now let's see the polished films of similar content that languish in the darker interstices. Grady Harp, May 06
Someone deserves more comfort..............A lot more....
JUST A REVIEWER2 | 07/16/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
(FIVE STARS for "......Comfort" / TWO STARS for "Vanilla")
Don't waste your time on the "Vanilla" portion of this DVD.......unless you're into the weird and surreal. The director presumably is projecting a "message" in this work, but this viewer is not at all sure it's worth discovering. (2-Stars awarded for filming technique and not-the-world's-worst acting levels).
On the other hand, for all you romantics out there, take comfort in the great little second feature on this disc. It's one that can make us all feel young again (oh, gosh, do we really want that?).
Poor little Arnaud, he's a real sweetie. He pretty much knows, sexually, who he is and what he wants, but it's the desire for the who-he-wants that's giving him problems. And, unfortunately for his peace of mind, the "hotness" of that desire manifests itself.....even during sleep (though Mom is very sympathetic at a time like that, does she actually realize the problem's cause........hmm, perhaps more than we know).
Arnaud, of course, must make one of life's first mistakes, one which so many of us make: choosing the wrong object of desire, the wrong person to fixate on. And, here, this reviewer's interpretation of Guillaume's role in Arnaud's life is at polar opposites from the opinion expressed by another viewer/writer on this site. In my eyes, G. is the epitomy of the "mixed-up kid" (and, perhaps with good reason, considering his family/home situation). He's a tease, concerned primarily with his own gratification, and, in the end, is someone who can relate to our sweet little hero only if pretense is involved (the nature of that pretense you'll easily discover with your own eyes.....er.....uh.....I mean, ears).
In concluding this little reflection of mine on teen life (a life-period which often needs more than the title's little comfort), let me say we can only hope that the angel of a cyclist who appears at film's end is there to provide much more than just 'a little comfort' to our Arnaud. He deserves it.
PS--Pulling us right into the scenes with him, Arthur Moncla does a great job with his character of Arnaud.......especially considering he was only about 17 at the time (yeah, more like 17 going on 40).
Brian Cunningham | California | 03/25/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I had to watch VANILLA a couple times before I "got" it, but it was worth it. This movie is imaginative, provocative, disturbing and beautiful -- though not for everyone. If you like David Lynch or the writers Dennis Cooper or Jean Genet, you might like this movie. I was impressed by how ambitious it was, thematically and visually, and how sensuous and surprizingly emotional it was. The ending made little sense logically (like a dream) but it made perfect sense emotionally. And although some of the acting was crude, the scene where the boy loses his virginity -- both in the real world and then in his dream world -- was a tour-de-force of vulnerability, honesty, courage and truth. While I found the French movie vague and predictable, i have to applaude the makers of Vanilla for taking risks and telling their strange, daring, story in original ways. I look forward to more work from these filmmakers."