Leo is 22 and sells his body on the street for a bit of cash. The men come and go, and he stays right here – longing for love. He doesn’t know what the future will bring. He hits the road. His heart is pounding.
The first film I saw at Cannes this year was ‘Sauvage’, a French film about a 22 year old gay prostitute played by Felix Maritaud (fresh off a supporting role in ‘120 Beats per Minute’) and it was certainly an eye opener. Those familiar with French cinema will be aware of their relaxed attitude towards sexuality (compared with American or British cinema anyway) and ‘Sauvage’ takes this approach to the extreme, with several sequences that brutally lay bare the experiences of Leo as he goes about his life. Leo’s lifestyle is portrayed as a desperate existence and Maritaud plays him superbly, capturing the naivety that comes with his youth whilst also encapsulating the lifestyle of a male prostitute and why he continues to be drawn to it.
The film begins with a comical scene in a doctor’s office that isn’t quite as it first appears, before venturing into darker territory as we follow Leo as he interacts with his fellow male prostitutes and various clients. It is essentially a character study of a young man at a crossroads in his life, drawn to the ‘easy’ money that comes from prostitution yet aware that this lifestyle is damaging him long term, potentially irreparably. Camille Vidal Naquet directs in his feature debut and he’s not afraid to shock the audience or take the narrative in unexpected directions, and I felt the writing managed to craft a satisfying narrative tale that felt true to the character of Leo. I did feel the film was overly explicit at times, perhaps trying too hard to shock (with one scene in particular), but Felix Maritaud’s committed performance makes it work and credit is due to Naquet for some of the bold choices he makes.
Whether ‘Sauvage’ gets a UK release remains to be seen (I suspect it unlikely), but this is an interesting piece of queer cinema from Camille Vidal Naquet and I hope it finds an audience at least in its native France.
‘Sauvage’ was screening as part of Critic’s Week at the Cannes Film Festival 2018.
Directed By: Camille Vidal-Naquet
Starring: Felix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Nicolas Dibla and Philippe Ohrel