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Feature first-timer Camille Vidal-Naquet creates a tough, intriguing if incurious study of a young homeless hustler, starring Félix Maritaud (who was Max in Robin Campillo’s Act Up drama 120 Beats Per Minute). He plays Leo, who makes an impact in the opening scene in a doctor’s office, as this beautiful young man talks about his cough and takes his clothes off, to reveal various marks and lesions that he is carefully asked about. The scene ends with a startling twist, establishing a note of irony that is ingenious but slightly out of kilter with the succeeding action.
What is interesting about Sauvage is that it shows how savagely boring Leo’s life is, quite a lot of the time. He just has to stand around by the roadside in all weathers, as cars cruise past and either stop or more often accelerate past. He doesn’t get to read books or magazines and you never see him or any of the other men staring at their phones. It’s clearly bad for business. You have to look sexually available at all times.
Leo has formed an ambiguous relationship with another hustler, Ahd (Éric Bernard) after the two men were taken back to a client’s place for a three-way. Ahd likes Leo but is clearly annoyed by his clinging neediness. Does Leo imagine himself to be in love? Is Leo, in fact, in love?
The bought-sex scenes, with their ricochets of violence, robbery and vulnerability, are candidly presented. So, too, are Leo’s subsequent “doctor” scenes. There is a great moment when he is asked to lie down on the examination couch and poor Leo instinctively turns on his side, rather than on his back, like a child trying to go to sleep.
I wasn’t sure about the ending of the film, the sequence that gestures at the title’s meaning. Does Leo have a kind of loyalty to the feral, almost pastoral existence of being a hustler? It’s a contrived and slightly unsatisfying image. But Maritaud’s performance has power.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Sauvage review – on the street with a homeless hustler | Film