“Male Shorts: International V5” now available on DVD and On Demand, collects a quartet of films — three from Brazil, one from Italy — that portray queer male lives. It is a mixed bag, as several of the entries are experimental in nature, focusing more on mood or feeling rather than a strong narrative. Although several of the films in this anthology are episodic, there are interesting visuals and ideas expressed in each short. Here is a rundown of the program.
“Xavier and Miguel,” is writer/director Ricky Mastro’s sequel to his 2016 short, “Xavier.” Shot from the point of view of his cell phone, the film has Xavier (again played by Gregório Musatti) anxious to have his friend Miguel (Felipe Carvaljo Ferreira) spend the weekend with him. Xavier is attracted to Miguel, which is obvious in how he comments on Miguel’s body as he does yoga or dances shirtless. He massages Miguel’s back and hopes that they can both share the same bed at night. (Alas, a scene of him laying out a mattress for Miguel suggests otherwise.) The guys are close, and while scenes of them brushing their teeth together do little to advance the narrative, the unspoken desire Xavier has for his crush is palpable. This modest short may meander a bit in the middle, but it builds to a nice ending where Xavier talks to his father (Carlos Cesare) about his feelings for Miguel, which adds an unexpected depth to the relationship that might develop. This may be a simple coming out film, but it has a sweetness and tartness to it that makes it worthwhile.
“Dreams” is an overlong short in which a documentary filmmaker (writer/director Chico Lacerda) tucks his two sons into bed and then crawls into bed with his husband (João Vigo) as well as with his movie camera so he can record his dreams. He describes his parents and a shack on the beach, some country roads, or an empty apartment. There is a repeated clip of a boy stacking mattresses in a circle in what is described as a nightmare. There are also recollections about his grandmother’s house, quotes about lucid dreaming, passages from Freud, Jung, and other thinkers, as well as a scene of Chico recounting a dream into a tape recorder while using the toilet. It is all rather dull, and visually drab as well. The most interesting sequence is a bizarre homoerotic episode involving a young man who enters what appears to be a military unit. At one point, a handful of cadets strip naked and do a routine where they press their bodies together in a kind of dance until orgasm. Then they clean themselves up and get dressed. This makes about as much sense as the rest of the film, which is the cinematic equivalent of someone recounting their dreams. Most of this short may put viewers to sleep.
“Iceberg” is also a bit avant-garde in that it features a curse that haunts Ismael (Otto Jr.), a plumber who is working on some pipes when he sees the striking image of a bloodied Renê (Jordi Marchon). Renê, who is also haunted, is then seen bathing outside with two other residents at the LGBT shelter where he lives because there is a water shortage. Madá (Érida Castello Branco) who runs the shelter, asks Renê to talk to and wash Natan (Allan Jacinto Santana) , another resident. That scene is both tender and sensual, but as Renê is completing the task, and before Natan comes out to give him a kiss, Ismael shows up. He is Renê’s father and has come to take Renê home. Renê is convinced that his mother is dead. This stylish short, written and directed by Will Domingos, features vivid colors and hypnotic moments of bodies being washed, even if its messaging is a bit cryptic.
The best short is the sole Italian entry, director/cowriter Chenxi Li’s “It’s Just Another Day.” Gabriele (Luca Lacerenza) wishes he did not have to leave his visiting boyfriend Giorgio (Pietro Angelini), to go care for his infirmed uncle (Aldo Ferro). He also gets lectured by his aunt, Isabella (Antonietta D’Anversa), who has heard rumors — presumably that Gabriele is queer — and she offers to set him up with a friend’s daughter. When Gabriele and Giorgio meet later that night — before Giorgio’s has to catch a train back to Rome — they opt not to go to a party and instead, unexpectedly encounter a group of homophobic bullies. “It’s Just Another Day” sensitively presents Gabriele’s hardships, and when Gabriele passes by a dog on a leash, he can’t help but stop and identify. This poignant, beautifully performed short depicts a pivotal moment in Gabriele’s life, and while it does not provide any answers, that is precisely why it is so affecting.