In SAUVAGE—a scathing dramatization of a male prostitute’s decline and fall—the underground hides in plain sight, in the parks and back streets of Strasbourg. Starring Félix Maritaud as a 22-year-old hustler with no name (in interviews, writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet refers to him as Leo), the film conveys with blunt force and clarity the haphazard reality of a group boys who—by necessity or expedience—have become dazed spectators to their own abjection.
As it turns out, this sense of distance is a vital requirement for the job. In the sex trade, the worker’s ego and subjectivity are useless during business hours. Leo’s fatal flaw is that he’s looking for too much life in “the life.” In love with a fellow hustler (Éric Bernard, as Ahd), Leo also likes to kiss his clients (another taboo), and is both ageist and unwilling to alter his habits. The idea of settling down with an older sugar daddy is nothing he can entertain for long. And as he plaintively asks a doctor who has just given him a poor bill of health, “Why would I change?”
Unwashed, unfed, and unloved, Leo and his tricks come and go throughout the night. In a touch Cocteau would appreciate, one of the johns—an angel of death—drives a black Jaguar, his periodic appearance heralded by a haunting piano interlude on the soundtrack.
Maritaud—already a young veteran of queer French cinema (Robin Campillo‘s BPM and Yann Gonzalez‘ Knife + Heart)—breaks the mold with a performance that reaches an unshakable core of desperation. This exclusive engagement of SAUVAGE at the Nuart ends on Thursday.
Through May 2.
11272 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Los Angeles.
From top: Félix Maritaud in Sauvage; Maritaud (center) with two clients; Maritaud; with Éric Bernard (left); Maritaud. Images courtesy Strand Releasing.