Sauvage / Wild
R1 - America - Strand Releasing
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (19th July 2019).
The Film

Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award: Félix Maritaud (winner), Critics' Week Grand Prize: Camille Vidal-Naquet (nominated), Golden Camera: Camille Vidal-Naquet (nominated), and Queer Palm: Camille Vidal-Naquet (nominated) - Cannes Film Festival, 2018
César (Best First Film): Camille Vidal-Naquet, Emmanuel Giraud, and Marie Sonne-Jensen (nominated) - César Awards, 2019
Lumiere Award (Most Promising Actor): Félix Maritaud (winner) and Heike Hurst Award (Best First Film): Camille Vidal-Naquet (nominated) - Lumiere Awards 2019

Léo (Knife+Heart's Félix Maritaud) is a twenty-two year old prostitute living rough on the streets of Paris. Although he has a degree of protection from seasoned fellow "Garçon de la bande " Ahd (11.6's Eric Bernard), he also has the other young man's scorn. Whereas Ahd has a plan to find an old man with money to at least get him out of France, Léo is (in Ahd's words) "a real fag" who enjoys sex, looking for romance where there should only be a paid transaction, and seeming to see no life beyond hooking and not understanding Ahd's "attraction" to older guys. When Ahd moves in with a widower, he distances himself from Léo, only coming to his aid to beat up client who could not get aroused and tossed him out without paying after hurting him. Léo thinks he has found a new friend in Mihal (Nicolas Dibla), an Eastern European alien whose skull was cracked open by Ahd when he found out that he was undercharging for blowjobs. Although he tells Léo that he considers hooking both work and pleasure, Léo is disillusioned when they have a threesome with a client who Mihal convinces him to drug so that they can ransack his apartment. Léo is devastated when Ahd tells him that his sugar daddy is taking him to Benidorm to live in the retirement property he has purchased (which Ahd sees as a stepping stone to getting back into boxing). Léo then meets Claude (Paris Under Watch's Philippe Ohrel), a lonely Canadian businessman who offers him something more in love and security, sending him into the dangerous company of "La pianiste" (Jean-François-Charles Martin), a wealthy client who likes blood and torture.

What is Sauvage/Wild? Is it a morbidly romantic melodrama, casting Léo as a male version of the "hooker with the heart of gold" with an Alexandre Dumas (fils) Camille persistent cough (that one expects to be diagnosed as consumption/tuberculosis by way of HIV) and fated like Frank Wedekind's Lulu to meet a Jack the Ripper? Is it a psychological character study? We know nothing of Léo's past. He seems different from his counterparts, not so much looking for love in all the wrong places but lacking their cynicism (he is perhaps mor shocked than the viewer when a client who begged for kisses dismisses him in favor of the rougher Ahd who is more his "type"), not seeming to see a life beyond prostitution but not in a hopeless sense. When he is taken to a clinic after being beaten by Ahd ("He hits me because he's weak," Léo surmises), he tells the doctor (Marie Seux) that he uses meth and cocaine but is bewildered when she starts talking about getting him off the drugs ("To do what?" he asks). One as a viewer is not even sure whether incredulity or pity is the appropriate reaction; indeed, a more likely reaction may be a roll of the eyes in spite of a few moving moments like the doctor's listening to Léo's lungs becoming a brief tender hug or the sequence of Léo and other prostitutes camping out in the bushes near the airport watching planes take off and land on beyond the chain-link fence. The explicit sex content is not so blatant as Stranger by the Lake or Paris 05:59: Théo & Hugo, and indeed the few shots of erections that appear to belong to the actors themselves and some glimpsed oral sex might be real; however, it could just as easily be some camera and editing sleight of hand. Sauvage / Wild ticks the boxes for current European gay art cinema, and it has received attention on the awards circuit, but it may perhaps be a more provocative viewing for the easily shocked or titillated than for viewers looking for significance.
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Video

Although details are sketchy about the resolution or type of Panavision HD camera utilized, Sauvage / Wild's progressive, anamorphic 1.66:1, high-bitrate encode is free of noise and seems to faithfully represent in standard definition a film which makes heavy use of shallow focus and harsh interior and night exterior lighting. The film is also available on Blu-ray from Saffron Hill in the U.K. (where it is simply known as Sauvage).

Audio

The sole audio option is a French Dolby Digital 5.1 track in which the surrounds are used for subtle atmosphere for much of the running time apart from scenes dominated by some eclectic diegetic music choices like a druggy party scene that actually does not turn into an orgy. Optional English subtitles are free of errors.
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Extras

The only extras are a theatrical trailer (1:45) for the film and trailers for four other Strand releases including the previously-covered The Cakemaker and Sorry Angel.

Overall

Sauvage / Wild ticks the boxes for current European gay art cinema, and it has received attention on the awards circuit, but it may perhaps be a more provocative viewing for the easily shocked or titillated than for viewers looking for significance.
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