Love me ten­der

SAUVAGE A gay sex worker sells af­fec­tion in the Cannes favourite from Camille Vi­dal-Na­quet…

Total Film - - Dialogue - JW

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.

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