22-year-old Léo (Félix Maritaud) is a rent boy turning tricks on the streets of Strasbourg in Camille Vidal-Naquet’s directorial debut. Most of his time is spent hustling for business on stretches of road, having anonymous sex and smoking meth and crack. It’s mostly grim as articulated by his fellow worker Ahd when he says: “It’s like you enjoy being a whore…Think I’ll suck dicks all my life?” Sadly Léo craves the, mostly unrequited, affection of Ahd who is dealing with a repressed homosexuality.
In an entirely handheld frame, Léo’s encounters sees his role play a patient, pleasure a man in a wheelchair and a widower as well as experiencing a gargantuan dildo. It’s raw and unflinching in its look at sex. The largely absent use of modern technology and the diamond emojis of Grindr makes it feel like a throwback at times though it seems set in the now. Vidal-Naquet is one of those rare beasts – a film studies professor-turned-director – and he shows an acute awareness of not glamourising the world besides the obvious beauty of Maritaud as the lead.
Club scenes are authentically shot through strobe lighting and even humour enters their environs when a new hustler threatens to unionise the existing ones by offering five euro blow jobs.
This way of living cannot sustain itself without fallout and illness begins to edge its way into focus. Ahd seeks to escape his lot in the company of an older man. Léo continues his reckless hunt for love with his false freedom. While moments such as scooping water from the street might seem somewhat exaggerated for effect, for the most part Sauvage is needle-sharp in its observations of the human condition in more extreme circumstance than most of us are accustomed. Michael McDermott
Director: Camille Vidal-Naquet
Talent: Félix Maritaud, Eric Bernard, Nicolas Dibla, Philippe Ohrel.
Release: 1 March