16 March 2014

J-C Superstar: A Review of Antony Hickling's Little Gay Boy Triptych

Little Gay Boy
2013, France
Antony Hickling

Films like Antony Hickling's Little Gay Boy aren't the sort you come across a lot these days. Technically an assembly of Hickling's short film trilogy (L’Annonciation or The Conception of a Little Gay Boy in 2011, Little Gay Boy, chrisT Is Dead in 2012 (which he directed with Amaury Grisel), and Holy Thursday (The Last Supper) in 2013), Little Gay Boy harkens back to a time when queer cinema was joyfully blasphemous, black as night, and playfully experimental in tone and look. In its own way, it continues the tradition of New Queer Cinema where filmmakers like Gregg Araki and Bruce LaBruce left off (as an aside, I was pleased to see on social media that LaBruce enjoyed the film as well). With an aptitude for defiling the sacred not unlike John Waters, the trilogy concerns a Christ-like figure named Jean-Christophe (Gaëtan Vettier), a pretty, wide-eyed young man—born from a raven-haired British hooker named Maria (Amanda Dawson)—who does for our sins and eventually meets his handsome, mustached heavenly father (played by Manuel Blanc, who winningly portrayed a similarly manipulated hustler in André Téchiné's J'embrasse pas).

And yet, unlike Waters' films, there lies an air of sadness beneath all the incest, rape, sadomasochism, and torture, which is how such dark topics are usually handled. But it's a unique blend of sadness and outrageousness, the sort Araki and LaBruce touched upon in The Doom Generation and Otto; or Up with Dead People, respectively. At heart, Jean-Christophe is simply a boy searching for connection in a cruel world that pushes him away. In the third segment, Holy Thursday (The Last Supper), Jean-Christophe leaves the merciless world to meet his estranged father in some cruise-y Garden of Eden where other religious and mythic creatures inhabit. But does he find what he’s looking for?

It certainly isn’t a stretch to put a gay spin on the story of Jesus, but it’s done effectively here. Little Gay Boy isn’t merely hollow blasphemy, like I remember Dogma being. It uses its familiar tale as the blueprint for a complex, disturbing (and rather entertaining) film about a young man’s struggle for identity and connection. Guaranteed to repel certain viewers while thrilling others at the same time, Little Gay Boy embodies that defiant queer spirit that seems to be so elusive in gay cinema today. Here's the trailer on Vimeo.

With: Gaëtan Vettier, Manuel Blanc, Amanda Dawson, Gala Besson, Biño Sauitzvy, Sothean Nhieim, François Brunet, Alvaro Lombard, Stephen Shagov, Axel Sourisseau, Christine Mingo, Hervé Joseph Lebrun, Florian David, Rémi Lange, Stéphanie Michelini