This documentary, rich in humor, voyeuristic delights, some keen and controversial insights, and smart visuals, is no drag. Venus Boyz does provide some graphic material (close-ups of genitalia, etc.) that will take it over the top for some, but niche audiences, "broad-minded" and otherwise, out for the unusual will delight in this amalgam of performance art (drag acts shot at New York's Casanova Club), talking heads, and cinematic snapshots of the lives of drag kings in both the U.S. and Europe.
The cross-dressing women run the gamut from wittily amusing to dead serious. Some--like Diane Torr, who has a loving daughter, and Mildred "Dred" Gerestant, who is immensely attractive in her female incarnation and scarily convincing in drag--mainly cross-dress for their performance art and to shake things up a bit with humorous digs at male habits and privilege.
Dred, Gerestant's take on the swaggering street smoothie, shows so much range with other characters and has so much panache and assurance, she could easily do Vegas. She can create a "mirage," if not perform there. Torr, whose male incarnation is businessman Danny King, actually runs a workshop for drag king wannabes. How to stuff a crotch is just one of the subjects covered. Suggesting that dressing for success should not be taken lightly, Torr and others share their delight at being able to experience in drag the power men have.
Mo. B. Dick, whose one side looks male and the other female, playfully invokes the notion of camp as a way of expressing the value of drag. Others like Storme Webber live their everyday lives dressed as men. And some like Del LaGrace Volcano take testosterone injections. Others at the extreme end of the spectrum can urinate like men. Others at the edge, including working artists, dabble in porn with gay men.
The film is not so much about homosexuality (German drag king Bridge Markland is bisexual) as it is about gender identification and, arguably, the artificial notions that designate male and female. Nor does the film provide any insight into this urge for gender travel beyond suggesting that we may all live somewhere on a highly calibrated gender continuum stretching from male to female.
Writer-director Gabriel Baur keeps things lively with lots of close-ups, terrific editing as the film glides from one king to another, and some visually poetic takes on locations like London and, especially, New York. Filmed in 2001, Venus Boyz includes lots of shots of the Twin Towers, perhaps meant back then to serve as symbols in keeping with the film's phallocentric subject, but now distractingly disturbing.