a film by Jean-Claude Schlim
2009 | 113 mins | Luxembourg - Germany
›› House of Boys
the highs and lows of coming-of-age in the early '80s.
House of Boys by Jean-Claude Schlim Contrasting the youthful beauty of the male form with the physical reality of AIDS, co-writer and director Jean-Claude Schlim has delivered a compelling feature that is as outrageously camp, as it is all too achingly somber.

For this is the chapter led story of homophobic escapee Frank; an out 'n' proud party animal who dreams of finding his Prince Charming, only to find himself instead destitute on a rainy night in Amsterdam. Seeking shelter at the House of Boys, that of a cabaret styled brothel whose spotlight illuminates a bevy of dancing cuties, Frank is soon to cast his eyes upon star of the erotic stage Jake; a straight stripper and more for the right price who he all too openly falls head over heels in love with, much to the concern of the Madame of the house. Only this is the early '80s and with its clientele flying in from all corners of the globe to quench their sexual thirst, a ticking medical time bomb is about to explode.

House of Boys by Jean-Claude Schlim Clearly a man on an AIDS awareness mission and good for him at that too, Schlim plays his feature "two films in one" fashion, luring you in with a sexy coming-of-age story, only to melodramatically up the stakes by graphically detailing the ravages of AIDS on both mind and body when one of the group succumbs to the virus, scenes that will undoubtedly make for poignant viewing for many. Yet in a film that denotes the frank facts on the most devastating epidemic in recorded history, one that still kills over two million people each year, Schlim goes out of his way to offer an upbeat first half, with animated birds and character building flashback sequences alternating with a series of rousing musical numbers, ones that provide a nostalgic backdrop to the lively fun to be had, as these boys set out to entertain you; burlesque fashion.

For and in as much as the contributions from Stephen Fry as empathetic Dr Marsh and Udo Kier, clearly relishing his role as the drag attired Madame of the piece, are a joy to see, it is the engaging principal cast who carry the feature. And her cue Eleanor David as kind hearted mother figure Emma, Luke Wilkins as Mohican styled graffiti artist Dean and notably Steven Webb who as a boy who wants to be a girl, ends up almost stealing the show. Only this is the story of Frank and Jake, with Layke Anderson and Benn Northover respectively displaying some truly heart-rending scenes during the protracted closing reel. That there's no doubting the depth of their love, is all but obvious, as runaway boys became men overnight when the horrific ramifications of AIDS arrive at their bed. Only in having perfectly captured the highs and lows of the period, Schlim has ended up a casualty of his own direction, given the film feels somewhat dated, as if it was made back then, even if the closing statistics reveal it is alarmingly anything but.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - the dark monty. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.com.

›› Available to buy from Amazon.co.uk.
available on DVD as part of the Breaking Glass Pictures catalogue 12.June.2012 / US.
available on DVD as part of the Peccadillo Pictures catalogue 29.August.2011 / UK.
screened as part of the 25th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, 2011.
starring: Layke Anderson / Frank, Benn Northover / Jake, Udo Kier / Madame, Eleanor David / Emma,
Steven Webb / Angelo - Angela, Luke Wilkins / Dean, Emma Griffiths Malin / Carol,
Stephen Fry / Dr Marsh and Loïc Peckels as Young Jake.
dedicated to Franck-Noël Caillat (1967 - 1995)
and to all the AIDS victims and people living with HIV around the world.
official website:
Copyright 2011 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #421
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