It’s shocking. That might be your first thought after watching this tale – director Camille Vidal Naquet’s debut – of a 22-year-old male sex worker living hand-to-mouth on the outskirts of Paris. In fact, it’s as *shockingly* memorable as cinema gets, its aftermath lingering in the mind long afterwards.
The playful opening wrongfoots the audience immediately, and this raffish spirit never quite leaves the film, despite the unnamed protagonist – who the press release calls Leo – going on to suffer some horrific humiliation, especially one scene so graphic that some members of the audience at last year’s Cannes walked out. Really.
Of course to avert one’s gaze is to miss the point, especially when the film is ultimately about Leo’s yearning for love, both in the wrong places, and also in a reluctance to accept a conventional loving relationship when it’s offered by an attractive older man. “You’re made to be loved,” says fellow escort Ahd sweetly, who identifies as straight.
Felix Maritaud (120 BPM), as Leo, exudes star quality as the rather romantic self-sufficient loner with no backstory who is – in the classic cinema trope – free but trapped. He’s entirely uncynical, doesn’t mind kissing his clients (unlike many of his co-workers) and combines, interestingly, a rugged vulnerability with a hardened solipsism. He simply is searching for meaning.
You’ll find yourself rooting for him – both his primitiveness and uncanny instinct – as the Lord Of the Flies-style gang, stranded on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne, drink, smoke, take crack, and look up at the planes, one of the many metaphors for escape.
It’s all captured by the intoxicating hand-held camerawork of Jacques Girault. Sauvage really does stay with you.
Out in cinemas 1st March. More info here.