Lesbian owned Wolfe Video offers two new films about the world of dance. It's a world where gay men can find community and acceptance, a place they can bare their souls.
Test: Better Than Most Hollywood Blockbusters
Chris Mason Johnson's "Test" is a quiet and reflective story set in 1985 San Francisco. The AIDS crisis is escalating, and everyone is terrified. Is the virus sexually transmitted? Is it airborne? Will condoms really offer protection?
It's into this frightening new world that Frankie (Scott Marlowe), an understudy in a modern dance company, begins to spread his wings. He's looking for love, and trying to find his place upon the stage. As he tries to navigate the now dangerous world of gay sexual encounters, Frankie enters into a friendship with fellow dancer Todd (Matthew Risch), an older, veteran dancer with the company.
Todd is a “bad boy.” As he regales Frankie with tales of his sexual conquests, including his plans to make a little extra money through hustling, an unlikely friendship develops. At first disgusted by Todd's conduct, Frankie is nonetheless drawn to him. Their friendship deepens as Frankie prepares to take the newly developed HIV test.
Lovely and lyrical, "Test" effectively captures the terror that gripped the hearts of gay men during the mid-1980s. First time actor Marlowe makes a sensational debut as a shy young man who's forced to face the harsh realities of the world he's come out into.
Though new to the world of dramatic film acting, 33-year-old Marlowe is a seasoned dance veteran. A performer with the LEVYdance company in San Francisco since 2005, he stepped into the role of the company's Associate Director in 2011. Several sequences in which Frankie takes to the stage are magical as Marlowe reveals his elegantly graceful, and sometimes acrobatic moves.
"Test" was produced on a shoestring budget. It's dialogue heavy. Yet it's far more interesting a film than any of the big Hollywood blockbusters can ever hope to be.
Part history lesson, part character study, "Test" is a classic example of how mesmerizing movies can be when talented actors play fully developed characters and get to speak well written lines in a story of substance.
Five Dances: Charming Coming of Age Tale
Equally low budget and equally riveting, Alan Brown's "Five Dances" is a charming coming of age tale. Openly gay Broadway hoofer Ryan Steele plays Chip, a young dancer finding his footing in a modern ballet company while he comes to term with his sexuality and finds his first love. Steele, an accomplished dancer, beautifully conveys the character's graceful moves and budding emotions as Chip rehearses the five dance pieces he's been cast in.
Chip is at first terrified and repulsed when fellow dancer Theo (Reed Luplau) expresses both a sexual and romantic interest in him. "I've never done this before," Chip says timidly, as he attempts to push Theo away, whom he clearly cannot resist. As Chip's mom tries to pressure him into returning home to the Midwest, he and Theo fall deeply in love.
"Five Dances" is a lovely variation on a classic theme which was often portrayed in older Hollywood films: the wide-eyed, small town innocent comes to the big city in search of their dreams. "Five Dances" beautifully puts a gay face on that theme in this shamelessly romantic and moving fable.