Love me tender
SAUVAGE A gay sex worker sells affection in the Cannes favourite from Camille Vidal-Naquet…
On a stretch of road in Strasbourg, young men stand waiting. They’re all selling one thing: sex. Among them is 22-year-old Léo (Félix Maritaud), a prostitute whose liaisons are depicted with unvarnished honesty in Sauvage, the directorial debut of Camille Vidal-Naquet. “He sells his body; he sells love,” Vidal-Naquet says. “I would call him ‘untamed’. He cannot fit in with the rules set by society.”
For all its graphic depictions of sex, Sauvage is more concerned with emotional intimacy. Teasing apart definitions of love, sexuality and gender, it follows Léo through his encounters with other men, to whom he shows surprising tenderness before taking their money. “When you think about it, tenderness between men is never shown on screen,” the French filmmaker tells Teasers when we meet him and his star in a London bar. “Where is the limit between being gay and just wanting to give affection to someone?”
At the eye of this storm is Léo, played by Maritaud, who recently appeared in HIV drama 120 BPM and won the Cannes Rising Star award for Sauvage. “There’s an alchemy between Félix and the camera, and the film relies on it,” says Vidal-Naquet. “He had to work with his body and not be self-conscious – clothes, no clothes, it was all normal.
He did that perfectly. And he had to give all the emotion, even while naked. All the time, it was about the emotion.”
Empathy pulses through Sauvage. Initially written as an exploration of an outsider, Vidal-Naquet’s script changed when he spent three years with the male prostitutes of the Bois de Boulogne, a Parisian park famous for its sex workers. “I discovered that what
I’d written was so soft compared to reality,” Vidal-Naquet reveals. “The relationships between the hustlers and the clients were so much more violent. The other thing was it’s a place where I found joy. I found a lot of it in these sex workers, they have all this bravery and courage.
It moved me a lot.”
ETA | 1 MARCH / SAuvAgE opEnS THiS SpRing.
frEncH fAncY Rising star Félix Maritaud as male prostitute Léo, whose working life the film follows.