Sunday, April 7, 2019

The life of a hot, young, gay French sex worker in Camille Vidal-Naquet's SAUVAGE/WILD

Here's a movie that should give you just about everything you could want and expect from a story about a young French sex worker who is hugely attractive -- and gay. From the graphic opening scene, set in a doctor's office, that turns surprising, funny and even oddly moving, the film explores the life, labor and love of this sweet, sad young man. As written and directed by Camille Vidal-Naquet (shown below), SAUVAGE/WILD certainly lives up to its title, never more so than by the finale, when we learn most fully what this means.

Embodied -- physically, emotionally, intellectually -- to near perfection by Félix Maritaud (shown below, seen most recently in Knife + Heart and earlier in BPM), the character of Léo is complicated indeed. M. Maritaud's performance is initially ingratiating and finally problematic but so compelling that I suspect you will remember this particular sex worker for a long time to come.

The filmmaker offers little exposition, and because Léo  generally prefers not to talk much about himself or his life, we must pick up clues as we move along. Thanks to a screenplay full of subtlety and well-chosen detail, together with Maritaud's rich and splendid performance, we have everything we need to finally understand our hero.

We're with Léo at work, with men both kindly and not so (the two, apparently Muslim, fellows, below, who invite him for a threesome and then abuse him mightily will have you ready for blood), and these scenes give you quite a sense of the breadth of the young man's varied work and clientele.

Léo's roommate Ahd, we soon learn, is also love of his life (played very well by Eric Bernard, below), but Ahd, being much more of a pragmatist than Léo, can't or won't return this love. And because Léo cannot properly control or maybe even understand his feelings, he slowly forges his way toward disaster.

Sauvage/Wild is no downer, however, there's far too much incident, emotion, even humor generated here for that. We're with Léo in scene after scene after scene, and eventually we understand him and his situation so well that nothing he does seems at all unbelievable.

Though this is filmmaker Vidal-Naquet's first full-length feature, he has managed to capture a character and milieu so well and near completely that it's an impressive feat indeed. Erotic, moving, dynamic, amusing and melancholic, Léo's tale should leave you with, among other things, a few nagging questions about the meaning and price of freedom.

From Strand Releasing and running a just-right 99 minutes, Sauvage/Wild has its U.S. theatrical premiere this Wednesday, April 10, in New York City for a two-week run at Film Forum. It hits L.A. (at the Landmark NuArt) on Friday, April 26, and will then reach another dozen or more cities over the weeks to come. Here in South Florida, look for it to play Miami at the Silverspot Cinema and Fort Lauderdale at the Classic Gateway, at both theaters opening on Friday, May 3.

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