›› Crush: an anthology of four gay short films, written and directed by Michael J Saul. ‹‹
Crush by Michael J Saul Crush: an anthology of four gay short films,
written and directed by Michael J Saul.

2009 | 77 mins | US

›› Donít Ask

›› Bloodline

›› Strokes

›› Breathe

official website:

see also:
Five years following the debut of his work True Love, multi-talented writer, producer, director and artist Michael J Saul returned to the ensemble format to present four individual short films about same-sex love; albeit with no connection cast or plot wise between them.

With credits confined to the opening and closing reels, feature fashion, self-contained stories are again left free to take to the spotlight, resulting in works of longing; be it for a partner away on active service, the perfect blood brother, your idol or the one sitting next to you.

Varied in tone and narrative, the following are summary reviews to each of the four shorts aired, listed in order of presentation, with promotional footage featured at the bottom of the page. Enjoy.

 ›› Donít Ask ±

 a short film by Michael J Saul
 2009 | 16 mins | US
 a poignant piece on love, war and politics.
Donít Ask by Michael J Saul Beginning his feature in pulpit sermon style, this insightful work showcases the emotional goodbyes between a devoted interracial couple, that of Cameron; a sergeant in the US Army and his civilian lover James. Only this is more than just a lecture on the then Donít Ask, Donít Tell policy, one that saw many a military man say a fond farewell to their gay partner, anywhere other than at base camp. As into his celluloid mix Saul adds political science lecturer Judy, who openly questions Cameron on the war itself, if not the very freedoms he is fighting for, the day before he embarks on his second tour of duty in Iraq.

Laced with many a telling line, it remains the tender scenes between the two that stay with you, as the reality of the final scene hits home, namely saying goodbye to those left behind longing for the next reunion with the one they love, ever fearful that it may not occur. A poignant piece on love, war and politics, backed by an achingly realistic turn by Stephen Tyrone Williams of Children of God fame, here shown defending his military service.
 starring: Stephen Tyrone Williams / Cameron, Sean Edwards / James,
 Seriina Covarrubias / Judy, Randy Bautista / Ben, Christopher
 Grant / Graham and Amy Vorpahl as Sarah.
 ›› check out the promo videos.
Nudity - sexually tender. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

 ›› Bloodline ±

 a short film by Michael J Saul
 2009 | 17 mins | US
 shared values make for perfect blood brothers.
Bloodline by Michael J Saul A spoiler warning is not required for this tale of sexual attraction with a difference, given the opening scene lets the cat, or should that be bat, out of the bag. Not that Goth Gerald knows Christianís secret yet. Both students in the same year, this is a teen in love with an Asian cutie who just happens to have a taste for blood - literally. Yet what is a vampire to do, when the blood he craves after, is in the body of the man he loves?

Sexually intimate in part, here we find Saul delighting in playing with the viewer, having Gerald toy with a knife, in the full knowledge that an open wound is but seconds away from ChristianĎs ever eager eyes, tongue and mouth. That scenes of horrific gore are somewhat confined to the blood stained opening, is reflective of the nature of the piece, one that shifts in tone by reversing the order of dominance, even if personally I would have preferred it to have gone more for the jugular, no pun intended. With clear potential to be developed further courtesy of an open ending, this marks a tale of shared values, as two outsiders find in each other, perfect blood brothers. A vampire with a heart, indeed.
 starring: Nick Endres / Christian Highsmith, Rob Westin / Gerald Paisley
 and Dave Vescio as the Alley Victim.
 ›› check out the promo videos.
Nudity - sexually intimate. 
Overall - file under ... 3 stars. 

 ›› Strokes ±

 a short film by Michael J Saul
 2009 | 24 mins | US
 a work on life, love and regret.
Strokes by Michael J Saul Hero worship plays heavily in this work on life, love and regret. Not that art student Michael knows this yet, having still to get over being awarded an internship with renowned painter Robert Brooks, even if Brooksí diva like temper is well known within the industry. And sure enough, it isnít long before Michael experiences first hand the wrath of an artist who has no sympathy for friends or family, let alone a Latino kid who canít even mix paint properly. Only what lies behind the man and his image and is it one that Brooks now regrets having painted?

In short, this is a work on the sacrifices made in the name of art, one that sees Marc Siciliani dominate the screen, in a performance that details Brooksí inner anger in having gained the fame and fortunate that he sought, only to have lost along the way, the things that money cannot buy. That he sees in Michael all the passions for life and love that he once had, adds to the poignancy of a reflective piece.
 starring: Jorge Diaz / Michael Lopez, Marc Siciliani / Robert Brooks,
 Susan Sommer / Jynx Merrill, Chase O'Donnell / Kris, Edwin
 Kho / Brian and Craig Weiffenbach as Craig Remar.
 ›› check out the promo videos.
Nudity - sexually intimate. 
Overall - file under ... 3 stars. 

 ›› Breathe ±

 a short film by Michael J Saul
 2009 | 12 mins | US
 a gay teenagersí first crush.
Breathe by Michael J Saul With a title that comes by way of breath control exercises, this ever so gentle short sums up the meaning of this feature. For this is all about a gay teenagersí first crush, that of an Asian boysí longing for his classmate Mark, namely a cutie that he just cannot seem able to approach. Compensating for the fact, his unspoken thoughts and feelings form the poetic overly-romantic narrative. Only when the parents of both boys become friends, could a camping trip for the two lead to a tender kiss, gay style?

Narrated by Saul and based on his own life experiences, this sweet short arrives as a breath of fresh air, even if the opening session with a therapist, adds a bittersweet element to the piece. Little else need be said, other than the scenes of the two boys alone together in the countryside, are what gay teen fantasies are made of. Delightful and beautifully expressed.
 starring: Dennis Yeap / Jeremy, Kyle Fain / Mark, Deborah Mousseau / Mark's
 Mother, Michael Massei / Mark's Father, Amelia Pawlak / Therapist,
 Yan Cui / Jeremy's Mother, Louis Yuen / Jeremy's Father
 and Megan Lee as Jeremy's Sister.
 ›› check out the promo videos.
Nudity - none. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 
Overall: an interesting mix, for whether by design or not, each short showcases the love between an interracial couple, neither party of whom is in denial over their sexual preference. That Saul loves the short film medium, is not in doubt. As too is the pride he takes in giving fresh faces the opportunity to shine, even if some admittedly shine better, than others. A man firmly with his heart and artistic hand, in the right place.

Also on hand for this production was First / Second Assistant Director Heath Daniels, previously seen in the He Was Perfect element of Saulís 2004 work True Love and who went on to write and star in Saulís 2010 inspired send-up of the Go Go scene, that is Go Go Reject. Future collaborations between the two include the intriguingly titled Peep Hole.
 And now over to the promotional footage ...
Official Trailer   Michael J Saul Director's Reel 2010
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
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