There's not much new in Boys' Shorts: The New Queer Cinema, a feature-length program of six short gay films. In mostly uninspired ways, it rehashes general aspects of gay life that most people are probably familiar with.
The most interesting is Christopher Newby's Relax. Not for what it says -- that one can't relax in the face of AIDS -- but for how it says it. Cinematic techniques reflect the protagonist's worries about his HIV test; for instance, vigorous bathing becomes the flow of the bloodstream.
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Mark Christopher's The Dead Boys' Club is noteworthy for trying to get at its concern through humor: An awkward young man coming out in the AIDS era gains confidence as well as gets transported to the freewheeling '70s whenever he puts on the shoes of his older cousin's dead lover's shoes. The conceit quickly becomes old, though, and the homage to the Donna Summer years -- as well as to today's more sobering times -- isn't very incisive.
The remaining are superficial tracts. In Michael Mayson's Billy Turner's Secret, a straight, homophobic black man asserts, "I will fuck a buck-toothed, bald-headed, stanky-breathed, 108-year-old, droopy-tittied bitch in her old crusty pussy before I get together with the bend-over boys," until his closeted black roommate enlightens him. Marlon Riggs' Anthem is a kaleidoscope of black gay expression, MTV style: repetitive chants, male celebrations, tribal scenes. "In America, I place my ring on your cock, where it belongs," media activist Riggs scats, as a flag unfurls. To a Jessye Norman aria, Laurie Lynd's R.S.V.P. rather predictably explores the range of emotions felt by a group of people toward an AIDS victim. Stephen Cummin's obscure dance piece about how gay bashing affects the lives of those involved, Resonance, has little of its namesake, largely because it's hard to follow.
Though of course clearly well-intentioned, the films just aren't all that interesting.
Boys' Shorts: The New Queer Cinema will show at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, December 4, and at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, December 5, at the Rice Media Center, entrance 8 off University Blvd.