In movies about making movies, we learn that what goes on behind the camera is usually more compelling than what's in front. In Next Attraction, it's not. In this 90-minute "making-of" of a short film, composed of mostly static long takes of locations and crew, what we get is the tedium of a regular film shoot. We're forced to watch the mundane actions of people doing their jobs or waiting, every once in a while with a glint of humor or perception. But always, we're teased that what's happening off frame is far more interesting, like when we can tell there's a kissing scene or a confrontation but can't see it. When the incomplete short film is finally attached like an epilogue, it's at once a climax, a payoff, and a relief -- a release from limbo, like a dream, fulfilled.
The funny thing is, the short -- a linear tale of a boy who runs away (Coco Martin), hooks up on the streets for gay sex (with Paolo Rivero), then returns home -- is more captivating than the purgartory that precedes it, even though it's a traditional and overused narrative while the other is a bold and new approach. That's because the making-of (shot on video) is almost too inhuman and impersonal, as if stripped of passion and desire to connect, where actors are not characters but robots in their duties, while the product (shot on 16mm film) is instantly recognizable and throbs with feeling. The juxtaposition is cerebral. Director Raya Martin has toyed with questions of cinema and storytelling in all of his previous features, and the results are sometimes great but often difficult. In Next Attraction, he succeeds at proving such cinematographic experiments may afterall be inconsequential and inferior to human stories the way we've always known them. That the film soaks in its own banality is its grandest irony.