Brian Butler June 6, 2019

Inspired by Les garçons du bois de Bologne et de la rue  – in other words the male escorts of the streets and parks of Paris, this French-language film pulls no punches in revealing the sordid, depressing and unhappy lives of a group of young men who sell their bodies to get food, drugs and alcohol.

THE unnamed main character, played delicately and touchingly by Felix Maritaud, literally lives much of his life in the gutters of city streets or under the shade of trees in the park.

When we first meet him he is at the doctor’s surgery being examined, but it’s quickly clear that the ‘doctor’ is just a dirty old male punter who wants physical examination fantasy sex, which he duly gets .

Felix’s character seems to move from one disastrous encounter to the next with a kind of drug-dazed euphoria. Many scenes have him loitering for hours, gazing at the sunny sky, smoking joints, crack or crystal meth and often being  robbed, cheated of his fee or beaten up.

His on-off relationship with an ex turns sour and violent, and it looks as if life is lost for the dirty, illness- prone 22 year old.

Yet he seems to have a smiling resilience and resistance to what life has in store.

When he meets a real doctor because of his incessant coughing and chest pains, it turns out he has TB and protein and vitamin deficiencies.

Yet on he ploughs, getting involved with date rape, robbery and more violence.

Just when you start to despair of him and the depressing writing and direction of Camille Vidal-Naquet, he finally seems to find the man who will straighten him out and take him as a life partner.

We see a transformation to smart, clean and well-nourished man who is free of drugs. The two agree to go to Canada to start a new life, but the ominous music belies the reality: he does a runner at the airport and returns to his hunting grounds.

The final scene, which shows him lying in the woods, and closing his eyes is equivocal. Is this just a retreat into the sleep of oblivion and escape, or the final curtain on his short awful life ?

The cinematography of the piece is beautiful, filmed as it was in Strasbourg, and the film may on one level be as the director says a tribute to the street boys, or perhaps more likely a morality tale about modern rootless city life.

Sauvage is a Pecadillo Pictures film which is now available on dvd.

Review by Brian Butler