Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Wild Side.

It must be wonderful to live a life free from hang-ups and to except who you are! Sebastien Lifshitz film, taking its title from a Lou Reed song, Wild Side (2004) is a film full of life, maybe dark dramatic life at times, but full of life, one about characters who live on the margins of what we describe as ‘normal’ society. What do we mean by a normal society, surely that depends on where your coming from? 
The wonderful Stephanie Michelini.
When this beautiful relationship drama opens we are left in no doubt of the unique sexuality of our main character - literally laying it out for all to see.  Setting the scene is a song from Antony Hegarty, who I was fortunate to see perform live in Edinburgh a couple of years ago, before we move to Bois de Boulogne to see how Stephanie earns her living as a transsexual.  But this is not a one-character drama. It is the story of a loving relationship between three people, the young good looking Algerian male prostitute Djamel (Yasmine Belmadi),[1] an illegal immigrant from Russia Mikhail (Edouard Nikitine) who washes dishes in a restaurant and Stephanie (Stephanie Michelini) who we have already mentioned, these are people with a troubled past and an uncertain future, as one commentator put it.
A song from Antony Hegarty sets the scene.
It’s when Stephanie’s mother becomes terminally ill that she returns to the run down farm in rural Northern France where she was brought up, reconnecting with her mother (Josiane Stoleru). We learn that the early years of her childhood as a boy were happy but that all changed when her father and sister “left” which is never fully explained. Both Mikhail and Dyamel join her at the farm and through flashbacks we begin to learn a little about each of their lives.
Fellow ladies that work the Bois de Boulogne.
The wonderful camera work from French cinematographer Agnes Goddard (Home 2008, 35 rhums 2008, The Golden Door 2006) allows an evolution to be added to the story especially when we leave Paris and enter Northern France with its beautiful scenery, farmhouse and village. Lifshitz, who co-wrote the story with Stephane Bouquet, wanted to make something that was a little more radical than the standard diet of main stream family drama’s or comedy programme’s found on French TV. To this end I believe he has succeeded.  The acting helps the authenticity of the story and for both Stephanie Michelini and Edouard Nikitine this is the first time they have been involved in acting of any kind. There performances help us believe the story and the emotions that are unfolding and Stephanie is not overtly or artificially feminine but I must admit it’s hard to believe at that she is not a female. This is a story that requires gentle observation in which we explore marginalisation, the family unit, admittedly in differing forms and to a lesser extent people’s origins and absent fathers.  A very commendable piece of work that deservedly won the Teddy Award[2] at the 2004 Berlin Film Festival.

Back to the city.

[1] On 18 July 2009 the scooter, which Belmadi was riding, collided with a lamp post at the intersection of the Pont de Sully and the Boulevard Henri IV in Paris. He was taken to the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital, where he died from his injuries, aged 33

[2] An international film award for films with LGBT topics,

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