BFI LFF Review


Sauvage reminds the spectator of the dazzling constellation of sex and sexuality

Max Redmond Smith on Camille Vadal-Naquet’s ‘Sauvage‘ (2018)

The heart beats, the camera cuts. Sauvage / Savage follows Léo (the on-the-rise, glittering Félix Maritaud), a 21 year old male hustler on the streets of Paris. Léo, much like Felix, possesses a je ne sais quoi. This may strike any potential reader as an easy and vapid observation, but Sauvage is a study of energy (both in the auratic and durational sense), which is an indefinable quality, hence the je ne sais quoi.

Sauvage avoids pronouncing sex with staccato (musical notes sharply detached from each other); as hustlers, sexuality, and how the characters indulge in it, is an integral and congruous part of their lives. This legato (connected musical notes) of the conventionally sexual and non-sexual authenticates the human sexuality; the union dissolves the borders, and establishes the sexual as an emotional energy that can provide an under or overtone to any certain time. It can embolden tenderness, or remedy loneliness through a night spent just sleeping in another’s arms.

This kineticism lets the sexual experience spill over, the sexuality leaking out beyond the sexual act only. The durational quality afforded by film broadens what is imbued with sexuality: there is a preface and postface to sex, it builds and falls, it pauses and breathes, it has an erratic pulse. In this respect, Sauvage can remind the spectator of the appropriateness of film as the medium for facilitating sexuality: the handheld camera, the oscillating zooms, the camera swinging with Léo’s swagger, and the mercurial cuts (which although formally staccato are energetically legato). The film is alive. Sauvage is energetic, it pulsates, it is infatuated with Léo. The camera offers a human perspective much like eyes scanning a room, it examines Léo but does not decipher. Ultimately, Sauvage is interested in upholding authenticity, it does not seek to judge or to explain. It celebrates that which is, it is a wagon hitched to a flowing stream.

As another carnal figure rises out of France in search of protecting authenticity — Ludovic de Saint Sernin — I wonder what a collaboration could facilitate. Sernin has provided a space for homosexual men to have their interpretations of sex on display through his social media. Sernin has now collaborated with the reputable filmmaker and photographer Die Lamb / Matt Lambert to create non-sensationalised pornographic shorts, the authenticity of which is refreshing. Artists like Die Lamb are those which, along with Naquet and Maritaud, need to lead a carnal crusade, to re-humanise sex. It is absurd that that which is a primal and necessary to our humanity has become commodified and made mechanical in cinema. Cinema, where our desire can be rendered multi-dimensional, durational, kinetic, and sensual in the true sense of the word — and yet the act of sex has far too often become a sign with no significance. Sauvage reminds the spectator of the dazzling constellation of sex and sexuality available to humans, if only we seek to re-establish the authentic.

Léo does seek unconditional love, but the authentic sex act does not lie in love per se, more so, Sauvage implies that sexuality is undeniably broad, and that yes it can possess a currency and become a means of production, but that what must be reclaimed is its property as a subjective entity with a longer and more secure duration. This is what defines the genuine; an undivided and unmarred sexual experience that is still located within the life that precedes and succeeds it: sex is not an intermission, and a focus on narrativisation is not always healthy.

In cinemas now

Max Redmond Smith

By Max Redmond Smith

Max Redmond Smith is a scholar and freelance writer based in London. A graduate of Film Studies (BA) from King’s College London, Max is interested in carnal cinema, sonic studies, porn studies, and sexual dissidence.