Wild Side (2004)

"Excellent"

Wild Side (2004) Review


It's a tale told over and over again: lonely souls adrift in a cruel world finding each other and creating a new kind of family with the strongest of bonds. Tell the tale incorrectly, and it can dissolve into sap and cliché. Tell it right, as director Sébastien Lifshitz and writer Stéphane Bouquet do in Wild Side, and the result is a moving story that offers hope for even the loneliest soul.

Set in Paris and the countryside of Northern France, the film brings together three very different lost souls: Stéphanie (Stéphanie Michelini), a pre-op transsexual prostitute; her roommate Jamel, a bisexual hustler of Moroccan descent who does his best work in Paris's skankiest railway bathrooms; and Mikhail, a traumatized Russian soldier who illegally immigrated to Paris and has fallen in love with both Stephanie and Jamel. Luckily, they have both fallen in love with him too. A weirder ménage à trois you will never encounter.

Weird but content, despite the daily difficulties they each face, from Stéphanie's rough tricks to Mikhail's terrifying Chechnya flashbacks to Jamal's alienation from his disapproving family. But then a disruption: Stéphanie must return to the forlorn town of her childhood (after 17 years) to care for her dying mother (Josiane Storelu). In order to preserve her sanity, she invites her two friends along. Glimpses of Stéphanie's childhood, when she was a boy called Pierre, are lyrical. We learn of her strong bond with her sister and her love of her mother even as her father became more and more loutish.

Setting up a little household in the mother's house, the trio continues to build their relationships, each having sex with the others. Mother is surprisingly willing to accept everything. The fact that her son is now basically a woman isn't what she might like, but she knows she has little time left to fuss about it, and it's far easier to go with the flow.

It's amazing to find out that director Sébastien Lifshitz hired non-actors for the three main roles. (Casting the role of Stéphanie must have been one heck of a challenge.) All three are excellent, completely capable of captivating the camera. And while tranny sex may not be your thing, it should be noted that the sex scenes in Wild Side are both erotic and elegant. The French really have a way with this kind of thing, don't they?

One musical note: the film begins in a cramped apartment where Antony, the famously androgynous singer of Antony and the Johnsons, warbles his way through a song called "I Fell in Love With a Dead Boy." It's absolutely riveting and sets the mood perfectly. What a way to kick off this interesting and touching film.

Shaved his legs and then he was a she and said "Hey babe..."



Facts and Figures

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Cast & Crew

Director: Sébastien Lifshitz

Producer:

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