College Boy (2013) (Unrated)
By any standards, this is an odd video to review—it is neither a movie, nor a short, though it is close to both in the sense that it has a plot, narrative, and theme.
"College Boy" is a music video (normally something that I wouldn't review) by the French band Indochine. The video is made by Candian film maker Xavier Dolan, the man behind "I Killed My Mother" which impressed me so much that I found myself trying to watch everything he has done.
I was unsure of what the video actually was, at first I thought it was a short film, but that soon became clear not to be true. To say that the video itself is a 'music video' is also a lie, for the band never once appears on the screen.
It's more appropriate to say that "College Boy" is a musically driven short film; maybe that's being picky, but hey, that's how I see it.
The video has a clear point: it's about bullying...short and brutal.
For only running six minutes long, the film packs quite a punch. For all American audiences (that would be me) or those who don't speak fluent French (me again) the film is simply a short film. There is no frame of reference for what the words are saying, and they become background noise. I actually enjoyed viewing "College Boy" like this, for the film became more than the vulgar term "music video" and indeed became literature of the screen.
After having seen it I looked up a translation of the song and found the lyrics; and then it became clear why it was a project that was picked up by Xavier Dolan.
Dolan likes to pick and write films that hit very close to home for him: therefore, the main character is usually younger, a homosexual, struggling with relationships, and bullied (not to the extent that this film's protagonist is bullied though).
The song itself caused a small wave of controversy but the video, even more so.
This is not a happy song, nor is it a happy film.
Much of the video is metaphorical, at least I hope so. It consists of a young man sitting in class and having paper wadded up and thrown at him. He lets the small projectiles roll off of him and continues copying what the teacher is writing of the blackboard. More and more paper balls are thrown at him and he still remains motionless. The teacher turns a blind eye to the bullying and continues writing. Eventually, someone throws a pen at his face, which pierces his skin and gives him a perfect tear drop of ink and blood.
It all goes down from there.
He is chased through the streets, beaten up in the locker room, and thrown down the steps. It all culminates in a curiously dark and morbid end scene that is the reason the video has a warning at the front.
As I said before, the video is so short...yet so effective. It's the kind of work that shows great maturity and restraint and at the same time doesn't compromise its emotions.
"College Boy" is filled with odd metaphors—the boy appears to be a Christ figure of some kind, though I would argue that he is actually an embodiment of the beatitudes from the Bible.
As the film fades away, I reflected on the famous passage from the book of Matthew:
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Perhaps this is just my way of creating some wall between the harshness of the film and my own empathy...I hope not.
Once again, Dolan has me humbled, his style and effectiveness, I cannot critique.
Keep in mind that "College Boy" is not a Christian work, though many allusions can be made to Christianity from the film.
The film is more about the way people turn a blind eye to bullying and the effect thereof.
I hope that all my words have just conveyed one thing: even a work so short can achieve such intelligence and depth.
Score: 4 out of 4 stars
Posted by Micah Jones