- Allan Hunter
- 25 February 2019
Félix Maritaud is astonishing in this unsentimental and authentic portrait of a sex worker
It is not uncommon for actors to be lauded for the sacrifices they make in the name of art. The extremes of weight gain and loss, the risking of life and limb to achieve that perfect shot in a blockbuster action movie. It has rarely seemed more valid than it does in the case of Félix Maritaud who gives himself body and soul to the role of homeless sex worker Léo in Camille Vidal-Naquet's Sauvage.
Best known as Max in 120 BPM, Maritaud invests the 22-year-old Léo with the innocence of a foal navigating a forest filled with danger. Marginalised by the mainstream, Léo survives as a hustler, placing himself in harm's way with a reckless disregard for his own welfare. He embraces his liberty. He shows little concern for his failing health, little regret for clients who believe their money buys them the right to abuse him. He appears too innocent, too vulnerable to survive in this world.
Part of the appeal of Sauvage is the way it strives to avoid cliche. It never condemns the life that Léo has chosen, nor explains why. It does show that his choices have consequences. Despite everything he endures, Léo retains a heart that yearns for romance. Experience never sours into cynicism. He remains a believer, hoping that his affection for straight prostitute Ahd (Éric Bernard) could still blossom into something that will endure.
Reminiscent of the Agnès Varda classic Vagabond, Sauvage draws an unsentimental portrait of Léo and his desires. The sex scenes are explicit and balanced by a hunger for love that is equally intense. There is a raw, documentary-like authenticity to the film that is often upsetting, but Maritaud's committed performance makes this fool for love a believable, poignant figure.
Selected release from Fri 1 Mar.