Vidal-Naquet’s debut feature is tough, uncompromising and at times uncomfortable viewing as he mixes the pain and turmoil of street prostitution with themes of loneliness and love. Sauvage follows the young street hustler Leo (Felix Maritaud) as he works the streets of Strasbourg – his only security and income, his body. However, for Leo, prostitution is merely his work in a society where young men can freely be brought and sold. As a result, Leo has built barriers between physical and emotional contact, his life torn in two, his sense of love and companionship strong yet equally distorted. Here Leo is brought to life through a sublime and complex central performance from Felix Maritaud, which carries a vice-like grip in its dramatic intensity.
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Before Sauvage, Vidal-Naquet spent many years volunteering with charities supporting street workers, engaging daily with boys and men who sold their bodies on the streets of France. Consequently, Sauvage carries an almost documentary-like realism as Vidal-Naquet’s handheld camera intimately follows Leo. Here, the professional social support offered to Leo is well-meaning but naive, with each counsellor, doctor or social worker lacking the ability to see Leo’s world through his eyes, leaving him in a void of care.
Leo’s emotional needs rely on his peer group, each of whom struggles to rise above their own inner turmoil. This is a life where drugs are an escape route and a crutch that provides moments of escapism in a world where weeks and days merge into one. Sauvage is a hard-hitting and powerful film with performances to match. It is never afraid to show male prostitution in all its grim reality, while also demonstrating moments of tenderness and love.
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Director: Camille Vidal-Naquet