“It wouldn’t be honest to make a movie about prostitution without talking about these kinds of things.”
The trailer for the controversial Cannes film Sauvage has arrived. Camille Vidal-Naquet’s directorial debut has attracted some controversy since its screening at the Cannes Film Festival in May earlier this year, when a number of audience members walked out following a particularly graphic scene.
Sauvage follows the story of Léo, a gay 22-year-old prostitute as he navigates love, sex and violence on the streets of France. Felix Marituad, who plays the protagonist, won the award for best actor at Cannes Film Festival Critics Week.
The graphic scene in question shows Léo’s unsavoury encounter with two men who have paid him for sex. The men treat Léo like an animal, forcing his mouth open to examine his teeth as well as making cruel jibes at the young man’s appearance. They then apply lubricant to a large butt plug, which quickly becomes weaponized in the context of the scene.
It’s not all negative controversy for Sauvage, however, with other audience members responding warmly to the film. Speaking to Vulture, Maritaud recalls the moment he became a real-life confidant for an American woman moved to tears in her seat. The actor took the woman in his arms as she thanked him, describing the moment as “strong, beautiful and honest”.
Meanwhile, the film has received an abundance of praise and critical acclaim. Variety called it a “savage directing debut”, while Telérama described it as “impossible to forget”.
Vidal-Naquet has defended his decision to include the graphic scene, stating that it “wouldn’t be honest to make a movie about prostitution without talking about these kinds of things”. The director spent three years conducting research at Paris’ infamous Bois de Boulogne, speaking to gay male prostitutes about their experiences. Vidal-Naquet told Vulture that there are “clients who can absolutely dehumanise you and treat you like a total object on the pretext that they’ve paid you and they own you”.
The park in question was the site of the murder of Vanessa Campos, a Peruvian transgender sex-worker last August. On Monday, five people were charged with the murder of Campos, who was shot dead in the park, reportedly trying to defend a client from a robbery.
The Irish release date for Sauvage is yet to be announced.
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