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A glamorous, colourful coming-of-age story that follows the dramatic journey of Frank, a high school kid in 1984, through an exciting world of sex and music, where his deep new passion is suddenly turned into a struggle for courage facing a new disease - the "gay cancer" - and becomes deep, true love in the expectancy of his friend's horrible death and beyond. Written by
Jean-Claude Schlim & Christian Thiry
The first ten minutes of this film might lead you to believe that it is little more than a campy celebration of homo-eroticism; however, this could not be further from the truth. House of Boys follows the story of Frank, a young man who runs away from home in order to pursue a liberated lifestyle in Amsterdam. After being abandoned by by a friend, Frank wanders into the gay strip club/brothel the House of Boys, where he is offered a job. As Frank gets to know the rest of the performers and their stories, this reviewer finds that the audience will get more than what they bargain for as Frank starts to learn about the World in its troubles.
Unlike a number of gay themed films, director Jean-Claude Schlim took great care that his actors performances did not come off as inauthentic or wooden. As the film progresses, the characters introduced continually strike the audience as authentic, likable, and sympathetic. The audience is allotted ample opportunity to become invested in the arcs of several of the key characters and appreciate the growth they reach at the end, with one exception.
Especially impressive is Schlim's use of set design to convey the change in tone within the film. Initially, the sets ((particularly the House of boys itself)) are loud , elaborate, and colorful. As the film progresses, however, the audience sees less of this and makes way for more plain, fading surroundings such as the hospital at the end of Act III.
One point of criticism is the arc of Emma. The end of her arc, while satisfying, did not have enough set up to provide adequate pay off to the audience. The film would be just as strong without the scene attempting to conclude her arc.
Nonetheless, every cast member gives solid performances that provide adequate depth and sympathy for their character. Despite dealing with sexually charged themes, the film is never pornographic and expresses the sexuality of the characters tastefully. In the end, it appears to this reviewer that the frilly titles and campy opening were intentionally misleading. The depth of House of Boys is more than skin deep.
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