Sauvage / Wild2019
Sauvage / Wild (2019)
Critic Consensus: Sauvage / Wild takes a clear-eyed look at the life of a sex worker, fueled by Felix Maritaud's performance and writer-director Camille Vidal-Naquet's non-judgmental approach.
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Critic Reviews for Sauvage / Wild
The central thrust of this graphic French drama may be a radical notion to some: that a sex worker can enjoy the wild, carnal freedom that his or her job can provide, while also being vulnerable to its dangers.
What's the old saw about war? That it's long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror? Tweaked a little, the line serves pretty well as a description of Sauvage. All that's required is the addition of "and/or emotion" at the end.
By the end, we've experienced one of the best films about street hustling ever made.
Vidal-Naquet's film knows that every wound and balm to the flesh is also one to the spirit.
French filmmaker Camille Vidal-Naquet offers a raw and riveting portrait of a gay male sex worker (the quietly devastating Félix Maritaud) and the aching tenderness he brings to his brutal profession.
Audience Reviews for Sauvage / Wild
HUSTLE & BLOW - My Review of SAUVAGE/WILD (3 1/2 Stars) I'll never forget the buttplug scene. Not because it's disturbing and somewhat graphic, but because it prompted my favorite indignant Writers Guild walk-out I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing, and there have been many. As soon as things got hot and heavy, a woman across the aisle from me stood up, waved her arms furiously, and muttered, "I CAN NOT E-V-E-N!!!" And here, my friends, is why good, challenging films can't have Oscars! The delicate sensibilities of professional writers notwithstanding, SAUVAGE/WILD, the debut feature of writer/director Camille Vidal-Naquet, traces the downward spiral of a young, gay street hustler in small town France and it pulls no punches. It's a dour, violent, explicit, drug-fueled tale of a man who for better or for worse (and let's face it, he leans into worse), lives life on his own terms. The unnamed hustler called Leo in the credits and played by the remarkable Fï¿ 1/2 (C)lix Maritaud (KNIFE + HEART, BPM) spends his time turning tricks, dancing in clubs, squatting in crack dens or sleeping on curbs. Leo pines after a fellow hustler, dynamically played by Eric Bernard, who does "gay for pay" only and has attached himself to a wealthy, older gentleman. Leo also faces some looming health issues yet charges forward from one horrific incident to the next. Vidal-Naquet, however, manages to instill this upsetting film with a lot of unexpected tenderness, whether it's coming from his crush, a fellow gay hustler, and in one breathtaking moment, a female doctor who allows Leo the space to speak his truth. The film feels like a direct descendant of the late, great AgnÃ¨s Varda's 1985 film, VAGABOND, which told the story of a homeless female drifter. Both films share the DNA of a propulsive docu-style of storytelling and a difficult but empathetic lead character. I'm also reminded of the New Queer Cinema films of the 1990s, such as HEAD ON and THE LIVING END, which also pointed its cameras at people living on the edge. Despite the similarities, SAUVAGE/WILD has its own voice. It's harsh and brutal, but Leo has agency and owns every decision he makes. The world may want to fix him, but he has other plans. He's aware of the horrors, but also feels alive whenever he charges into the flames. One person's existentialist nightmare may be another's paradise. Think of Alex in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE. After all of the brainwashing, the change in appearance and attitude, don't you think he was way more interesting and fun as a practitioner of the old ultra-violence? SAUVAGE/WILD risks asking this same question. You may not like Leo's decisions or actions, but they're his, not yours. The film also benefits from some incredible cinematography by Jacques Girault. Yes, many scenes feature the usual handheld camera, but then we're thrust into evocative strobing images in a club, or beautifully framed scenes by the park roads where the hustlers work. Still, it's not a film for everyone. It often feels stuck on repeat as Leo's life goes from one dark moment to the next, and it has plenty of nudity and some really aggressive sex. It also has plenty of bloody violence, yet spares us the most intense of these episodes, showing us only the aftermath. Did I mention there's lots of sex? If on-camera thrusting and blow jobs aren't your jam, you might want to go down the hall and watch MISSING LINK instead. And yes, that buttplug scene may end up as notorious as the peach scene in CALL ME BY YOUR NAME, but for me, its unforgettable quality lies in how Leo responds to every humiliating demand of his sociopathic johns. Credit goes, however, to Fï¿ 1/2 (C)lix Maritaud for injecting his character with empathy and heartbreaking fragility. He allows that vulnerability to peak out in key moments, yet it never feels overly sentimental. It's as if he's letting a little of angst out so he can steel himself for whatever comes next. Leo also has no issues kissing his clients, a line most hustlers won't cross. It's as if his character will accept love and affection anywhere he can get it. Camille Vidal-Naquet reportedly spent a few years researching the lives of hustler in order to write his screenplay and it shows in the ways they interact with their customers. You may wince at the methods they employ to drug and rob one client, but it also feels very believable. I admired this film's unblinking determination to give us something new in this gritty, tried and true genre. Leo lives for the moment, seemingly relishing not having a road map. Not everyone will want to follow him in his freefall, but, as it turns out, ï¿ 1/2I CAN E-V-E-N!
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