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CANNES 2018 Critics’ Week

Camille Vidal-Naquet • Director

"An outsider who’s a law unto himself, rejected, neglected and looking for love"

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- CANNES 2018 : French filmmaker Camille Vidal-Naquet chatted with us about his first full-length film, Sauvage, unveiled in competition during Critics’ Week in Cannes

Camille Vidal-Naquet • Director
(© Les Films de la Croisade)

A disturbing first full-length film that doesn’t take any prisoners, Sauvage [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Camille Vidal-Naquet
film profile
]
, by Camille Vidal-Naquet, immerses us in a world of male prostitution where brutality, freedom of choice and the search for love endlessly collide. The film was presented in competition during Critics’ Week at the 71st Cannes Film Festival.

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Cineuropa : What gave you the idea of making a film on the subject of male prostitution?
Camille Vidal-Naquet : My starting point wasn’t so much the subject-matter as the character. I imagined an outsider who’s a law unto himself, rejected, neglected and looking for love. A person who doesn’t worry about material life and who doesn’t fit into any preconceived social norms. I then got to thinking about the world of male prostitution. I started to learn about the very specific type of prostitution that is street prostitution, and the precariousness of it, as these are people who actually live on the streets. I was also very interested in the theme of the body because we tend to think that with prostitution, you need to have a body that’s beautiful, healthy and well-cared for, in order to sell it, hire it out. But when you’re on the street, you don’t have access to good hygiene, you don’t eat well, your injuries are left untreated, etc. I thought it would be powerful to try to reconcile the body which is suffering from the severity of the streets with the fact that it’s also an object of desire. It also dawned on me that we don’t represent male street prostitution in film : we speak very little about it and there is very little footage of it.

We never find out the backstory of the main character, not even his name. What was your motivation for these choices?
This film isn’t a sociological analysis. Lots of film- or documentary-makers could ask themselves the very interesting question of why their work turned out the way it did. With my film, I’m more concerned with living with the character, offering a more sensorial experience, so as to highlight just how crippling it can be to be excluded from society so violently. This film is more about shock, violence, the magnitude of what he goes through, and not so much about explanations.

What about the main character’s search for love ?
We’re not used to seeing love stories unfold in environments that are as harsh as that of male prostitution. We often forget just how dehumanising this job actually is. We reduce it to something purely functional : prostitution. But before being prostitutes, these men are first and foremost individuals. I wanted to show that this 22-year-old individual is in need of love more than anything else, as is probably the case for a lot of people, but that in his mind, prostitution and the harshness of the streets is totally normal, which is wholly incomprehensible for us. He never complains, we never see him try to escape his life, he has no other place to be, he doesn’t have a dream to aspire to… This is his life and he accepts it as it is. Except for one incident where things turn nasty and he demands amends are made.

Félix Maritaud quite literally carries this film.
That right, especially with it being such a complicated role where our lead doesn’t say very much. He goes from one place to another, makes certain movements, certain gestures… he had to exist pretty much exclusively through his body.

How far did you want – or not want – to go in the representation of sexuality?
The idea was to portray the reality of what these boys go through and to show the situations they experience - sometimes warm, sometimes mechanical - as well as the violence, the harshness of it all. I’ve always been surprised that we use the expression "turning tricks", as if we want to avoid calling it by its actual name. I wanted the film to be bold and to show what daily life is really like for these sex workers, though we still don’t show all of it. It would’ve made no sense to leave it out, it’s like making a film about a baker but not showing him bake bread. And it also tells us a lot about the character, his gentle nature, his desire for affection, his generosity, what he gives to others, the care he takes over the quality of the relationship or, sometimes, his total obliviousness.

(Translated from French)

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