Entertainment » Movies

Sauvage / Wild

by Roger Walker-Dack
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Tuesday Jul 23, 2019
Sauvage / Wild

One of the most powerful and provocative movies that completely divided the critics at the Cannes Film Festival this year was French writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet's debut feature "Sauvage." This story — about a young street hustler in Strasburg who lives on his wits and, despite his tough exterior, turns out to be a sex worker with a heart — had one half of the ecstatic festival audience cheering wildly, whilst the other half clamored to exit the theater as fast as possible.

"Sauvage" is a movie that gets under your skin, as the desperation of 22-year-old Leo (Felix Maritaud), who lives and sleeps on the street, completely mesmerizes you. Hanging out with other hustlers in a notorious pickup place in a park on the edge of town, he meets up with with hunky Ahd (Eric Bernard). The older hustler flirts with him and invites Leo to have a threesome with him and a client, but draws strict boundaries as to what he will and will not do in bed. Ahd claims he is straight and that hustling men for sex is just temporary, whereas Leo puts his heart and soul into it as if he enjoys it.

The two men start up an uncomfortable friendship where the older man reluctantly acts as the naive Leo's protector, whilst although he refuses to admit it, Leo falls in head over heels in love with him.

Living rough on the street means that Leo not only has hygiene issues health problems, too. When he eventually ends up seeing a compassionate and understanding doctor (Marie Seux), he clings to her as if seeking the maternal comfort he's been denied by the parents that abandoned him.

Ahd is obsessed by the idea of being able to leave town and get away, and the favorite pastime of he and the other hustlers is to hang out by the airport perimeter and watch planes take off. Leo, who cannot understand why Ahd cannot reciprocate his feelings, is, on the other hand, happy enough to stay where he is, as he doesn't know or want any other kind of life, no matter how tough this one might be. Although he seems to want to settle down, when another gay hustler offers him the chance of being his boyfriend he doesn't take him up.

As Ahd hooks himself up with a sugar daddy and is about to finally leave town, Leo gets himself into an even dangerous mess — but this time it is not Ahd who rescues him. It finally seems that could be redemption for Leo after all.

There are no holds barred filming both the gritty action and the explicit sex that pepper the movie. It is all very brash and bold, and quite unnerving, but underneath there is something undeniably touching about Leo's aching need for romance. Maritaud, who first came to our attention last year in Robin Campillo's "BPM," is a remarkably talented young actor who gives a pitch-perfect performance as Leo, and who somehow makes us always want to be in is corner. It won him the Best Newcomer Award at Cannes, and he is now destined to be a major star.

Kudos to Vidal-Naquet for her unflinching conviction and her graphic approach to an unsettling story. This truly excellent movie will linger with you long after you have seen it, and marks her as talent that we should look out for from now on.

Roger Walker-Dack, a passionate cinephile, is a freelance writer, critic and broadcaster and the author/editor of three blogs. He divides his time between Miami Beach and Provincetown.


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