Ever-good-natured helmer Rosa von Praunheim turns his attention to Berlin’s world of male hustlers in “Rent Boys,” a sympathetic yet shallow look at the city’s gay sex-worker scene. Interviews with current and former hustlers, support providers, bar owners and johns reveal unsurprising stories of broken homes, early sexual abuse and youthful criminality, all exposed in a straightforward manner whose honesty is marred by occasional staged scenes that add a stilted artificiality. The titillating title and Praunheim’s indulgent fanbase guarantee heavy play on the LGBT circuit.
In the past, Berlin’s rent boys were mostly German youths who picked up clients around the Zoo train station. Since the Wall fell, the demographics shifted, and now they’re largely from Eastern Europe. Rather narrowly, Praunheim’s subjects (at least, those currently on the hustle) are all gay-for-pay, such as Ionel, a Roma from a Romanian village where young males apparently take it for granted that there’s easy money to be made hustling in Germany. Daniel, 28, provides the most detailed biography, while john Peter Kern’s bid for auds’ compassion deservedly, though unintentionally, falls flat. Tech credits are solid.