An uncompromising yet touching portrait of life among rent boys.


Félix Maritaud


Following three short films, Sauvage marks the feature debut of the French writer/director Camille Vidal-Naquet and it is a work that surprises. Bearing in mind such films as the 2013 Strangers by the Lake, one is no longer taken aback to come across a gay French movie containing highly explicit sex scenes, but it is unusual to find a toughly realistic work which, while incorporating such elements, also displays remarkable sensitivity and that is what happens here.


Sauvage is centred on a youth of 22, Léo played with the utmost conviction by Félix Maritaud. He is a rent boy in Strasbourg cast off from any family and without any fixed home. He hangs out with other prostitutes some of whom are plying the trade in sheer desperation. He is particularly close to one such, a foreigner named Ahd (Eric Bernard) who is eager to find a sugar daddy even though he is himself heterosexual. That is all the more unfortunate for Léo since he finds himself attracted to Ahd. Indeed, what marks Léo out from the others is the fact that, despite his life-style and an indulgence in drugs that may be contributing to health problems, he is a youth whose hopes centre on the possibility of finding real love with a man.


The fact that rent boys can easily find themselves in perilous situations leads to one particularly disturbing scene and, indeed, once past an unexpected initial scene, there is little in Sauvage that is remotely comic. But there are also johns who are sensitive and caring and such scenes, together with a memorable one in which Léo visits a female doctor (Marie Seux), illustrate perfectly Vidal-Naquet's delicacy and his ability to create truly touching moments - and all the more so because they never feel sentimental.


The best things in Sauvage are remarkably good, but in his writing capacity Vidal-Naquet sometimes seems to me to err. There is at least one scene in which Léo behaves so badly that it cuts off our sympathy and, as it happens, this moment also makes a subsequent plot development appear unlikely. Furthermore, the film's last section seems too rushed and lacking in the detail that might have made one feel that the ending was convincing rather than a foreseeable cliché. Ultimately, therefore, I have some significant reservations about Sauvage but, unless you are put off by the frank treatment of its subject matter, it is a film not to be ignored for there are times when it touches on the exceptional.




Cast: Félix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Nicolas Dibla, Philippe Ohrel, Marie Seux, Pavle Dragas, Mehdi Boudina.


Dir Camille Vidal-Naquet, Pro Emmanuel Giraud and Marie Sonne-Jensen, Screenplay Camille Vidal-Naquet, Ph Jacques Girault, Art Dir Charlotte Casamitjana, Ed Elif Uluengin, Music Romain Trouillet, Costumes Julie Ancel.


Le Films de la Croisade/La Voie Lactée-Peccadillo Pictures.
97 mins. France. 2018. Rel: 1 March 2019. Cert. 18.