Review: ‘Not Angels But Angels’

Compromised by the odd disadvantage of being too technically slick for its gritty subject, this docu on boy street hustlers of Prague offers Eastern Euro setting as only novel element in otherwise predictable look at familiar subject. Gay and docu-slanted fests may bite; Euro broadcast is possible, although a couple of gratuitous, explicit bits might require trimming.

Compromised by the odd disadvantage of being too technically slick for its gritty subject, this docu on boy street hustlers of Prague offers Eastern Euro setting as only novel element in otherwise predictable look at familiar subject. Gay and docu-slanted fests may bite; Euro broadcast is possible, although a couple of gratuitous, explicit bits might require trimming.

Polish-born helmer Wiktor Grodecki immediately catches the eye with his candy-hued lighting and gimmicky compositions for interviews with some dozen lads (most in their late teens). But while visual fuss and jazzy editing do spice up what’s essentially a lot of talking-head footage, that approach — rather similar to Diane Keaton’s in the more fanciful 1987 docu “Heaven”– calls attention to itself at the expense of investigative depth.

Some additional sequences manipulate to questionable ends, as in flashy cuts to leering johns (presumably actors) and a tasteless bit mixing up footage of a tattoo-laden tramp’s strip with hardcore porn stills. Use of borrowed music (mostly classical, plus some clamorous metal & Tibetan sounds) is effective yet employed to levy condescending doomed aura on teen prosties.

Kid subjects are fairly articulate, describing their (largely foreign-tourist) customers and personal backgrounds. But Grodecki rarely strays from the method of approaching a topic (AIDS fears, condom use, favored and disliked sexual acts) and rapidly cutting between all interviewees as they offer basically the same responses.

Sum effect is watchable but unenlightening, with glossy presentation adding shock-value tenor that leaves a sour aftertaste. Weighed against such similar portraits of the disenfranchised as “Paris Is Burning,””Not Angels But Angels” seems more judgmental than compassionate toward its hard-luck protagonists.

Not Angels But Angels

(CZECH REPUBLIC-FRENCH -- DOCU)

Production

A Mirofilm presentation. Produced by Miro Vostiar with Frank Beauvais. Directed, written, edited by Wiktor Grodecki.

Crew

Camera (color), Vladimir Holomek; sound, Jan Cenek; associate producer, Michel Klein; line producer, Peter Lencses; assistant director, Beauvais. Reviewed at Variety Club Screening Room, San Francisco, May 31, 1994. (In S.F. Intl. Lesbian & Gay Festival.) Running time: 80 MIN.
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