Human Sexuality and the Spectrum of Love
Grady Harp | Los Angeles, CA United States | 12/05/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Sébastien Lifshitz ('Come Undone', 'The Crossing') is one of the more sensitive directors to arrive on the scene in some time. He molds stories about the periphery of mankind and creates deeply human dramas without the clutter and noise that often dampen the effect of intense emotional experiences. He is intelligent, a fine writer and observer and a man unafraid to take chances: all but two of the actors in WILD SIDE are amateurs with no experience in front of the camera and from these neophytes he extracts brilliant performances. He is an artist to watch.
Stéphanie (Stéphanie Michelini) is a transsexual who makes her living through prostitution on the streets of Paris. She is a gentle, soft-spoken, tender person who is making her way in life as the being she has selected to present. She meets Djamel (Yasmine Belmadi) a handsome bisexual North African young man who likewise makes his living turning tricks in the subways and streets of Paris, another person estranged from his family as is Stéphanie. Yet another young man Mikhail (Edouard Nikitine) estranged from his family in Russia meets Stéphanie and falls in love with her. The three outsiders from a true ménage a trois, all three genetically males, all three in need of love and belonging and capable of sharing love equally within the trio. When Stéphanie learns her estranged mother (Josiane Stoléru) is critically ill, she travels to her rural French neighborhood of her youth together with Mikhail and Djamel and it is this confrontation with her past and the way she pieces her life together with the love of Mikhail and Djamel that creates the beauty of this film.
Though there are innumerable reasons for recommending this film the main one remains the manner in which Lifshitz has taken a script written with his long-term associate and fellow professor at La Fémis (Paris) Stéphane Bouquet about a marginalized portion of society and crafted one of the more touching love stories that needs and receives no apologies. Stéphanie (the actress is a transsexual in real life and has never acted before) is presented not as an oddity but as just a human being for whom life has dealt some challenges. We see her in the opening scenes fully nude with the lovely body of a female that happens to also have male genitalia. The isolation of Stéphanie's life is shown from the beginning in a scene where a group of transsexuals listen tearfully as a singer (Antony Hegarty) sings a tender ballad 'I fell in love with a beautiful dead boy...but was he a girl or a boy?'. This quiet manner pervades the film.
Mikhail is likewise played by an unknown inexperienced actor and plumbs the depths of his lonely Russian émigré with gently nuanced humility. Djamel and Stephanie's mother are played by actors with whom Lifshitz has worked before and their superlative work helps coax the best performances from the neophytes. The breathtaking cinematography is by Agnès Godard, a genius for creating atmosphere and mood, equally successful in the cramped environs where the sex for money acts are performed as well as in the beauty of the Parisian streets and the French rural countryside. The subtle music score by Jocelyn Pook is variations by a string quartet and harp and very well composed. The DVD gratefully includes and interview with Lifshitz and for once the information shared is extremely beneficial to the enjoyment of the film.
Because audiences in general have difficulty with trans/homosexual love scenes this film will probably never receive the recognition it deserves. But for those who long for the power of truly fine independent films, this film is as fine as they come - in story, in direction, in acting, in cinematography and, most important, in honesty. It is a jewel of a movie. Highly Recommended. Grady Harp, December 05
Beautiful and intense description of today's sophisticated r
Manuel Albornoz | 05/05/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is maybe one of the most powerful urban stories of the decade. Told with tremendous sensibility and encompassing all aspects and the diverse views all present in today's contemporary life. We are all the same, human above all and even though we tried to look different, look for clues on the edge or try to adapt in new environments we still cling onto our desires and needs to make of all a beatiful whole. Tremendously refreshing and hopefull movie!"
Beautifully Told Story Of Love That Crosses Boundaries
Mame du Bois | Australia | 05/18/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a beautifully told story of an group of three people who equally share in a relationship. Certainly not the typical nuclear family but family bounded with love all the same. While it is a essentially a romantic film, it doesn't shy away from the more harsh realities of life for a TS such as prostitution. It is great to see a positive account of a transsexual love story that doesn't involve brutal bashings, unrequited love or IRA terrorists.
The directors interview in the special features is definitely worth watching along with the delete scenes (which didn't need to be deleted in my opinion).
A must for the Queer/Trans cinema buff."
It's, um... something.
Robert P. Beveridge | Cleveland, OH | 03/05/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Wild Side (Sebastien [...], 2004)
I've been trying to figure out how I feel about this movie for weeks, and I'm stuck in deadlock. I get what [the director] was trying to do, and I admire him for trying to do it; I'm just not sure he pulled it off as much as he gets credit for having done.
Stephanie (Stephanie Michelini) is a [TS] prostitute on the streets of Paris. She lives with two men, both rentboys as well: Djamel (Who Killed Bambi?'s Yasmine Belmadi) and Mikhail (Edouard Nikitine). When Stephanie's mother falls ill, Stephanie must return to the French countryside to take care of her. Djamel and Mikhail tag along, and Stephanie's mother (listed in the credits only as "la mere") has to deal not only with having a daughter where she previously had a son, but that daughter's rather unconventional romantic relationship.
In other words, it's the family drama with added kink. It never really claims to not be the family drama, but I wondered a few times while watching it (and constantly while reading the reviews) if [the director] felt added kink was enough to take a relatively old, flavorless family drama and make it new. Of course, it'll work like a charm for those who are willing to upgrade anything with "outsider" characters and those odd ducks who are militant about only consuming media featuring gay characters. Not surprisingly, a good number of the reviews so far have been from that camp. Most of us, however, don't fall into it. And it seems to me that most of us are going to watch this film and say "you've seen one family drama..."
Not that it's not watchable or engaging. [The director] jumped on the bandwagon of "recruit the folks you're casting from the ranks of those who live the life," and thus a decent portion of his cast are not professional actors; this is always a bit of a gamble. When it pays off (viz. Cidade de Deus), it pays off handsomely, but sometimes it doesn't. Here... half and half. Stephanie Michelini is a decent actor, but to take a non-actor and put her in a role of this importance? The other main newbie here is Nikitine, who as it turns out is not a bad actor at all. [The director] keeps things interesting by moving between the gentle, slow, talky family-drama scenes and the Parisian nightlife enjoyed (suffered?) by its main characters.
After all this, though, I've no idea if I actually liked it. ***