Les garçons sauvages [The Wild Boys] (2017)

Les garçons sauvages
Director: Bertrand Mandico
Writer: Bertrand Mandico
Cast: Pauline Lorillard, Vimala Pons, Diane Rouxel, Anaël Snoek, Mathilde Warnier, Sam Louwyck, Elina Löwensohn, Nathalie Richard
Part of: /slash 1/2 Filmfestival
Seen on: 3.5.2018

Content Note: Rape, transmisia

Romuald (Pauline Lorillard), Jean-Louis (Vimala Pons), Hubert (Diane Rouxel), Tanguy (Anaël Snoek) and Sloane (Mathilde Warnier) are friends, all interested in arts and aestheticism in general. But after raping and killing their literature teacher (Nathalie Richard), they are put in the care of the Captain (Sam Louwyck) in the hope that his rough methods will set them on the right path again. They embark on a journey on the Captain’s ship to an island where transformation is supposedto happen.

The Wild Boys was interesting, but didn’t work in all respects for me. Still, it’s a film that looks at gender and has an interesting visual style, so I would say that it’s worth checking out regardless.

SPOILERS after the jump.

The Wild Boys is a film that is obviously interested in gender, or more specifically, deconstructing (binary) gender notions. Here, five young actresses play five young men. They rape a woman and are brought to an island by a man who is basically toxic masculinity personified, but later turns out to have a single boob. Once there, they realize that the island is basically magical and under the guidance of Sévérine (Elina Löwensohn), who used to be Sévérin, the boys’ bodies start to transform: their penises fall off, they grow breasts.

A lot can be done with that premise and there is interesting stuff to interpret here for sure. But I felt like this is a film about a deeply feminist topic, if not to say about the core of feminism – made by someone who isn’t well-versed in feminist theory or doesn’t actually stand for feminist demands. Thus, some things didn’t sit right with me at all. That starts with the rape scene of the teacher which is absolutely aestheticized and the fact that the Boys are attacked themselves as soon as they lose their penises and one of them is raped, which I felt is a very “male” take on the heightened risk of rape for women.

But that isn’t all: there’s also the “solution” where the men’s bodies are changed against their will which can be read as them being turned into women (a reading the film does seem to suggest), which is transmisic, [trans]misogynistic and essentialistic, as it frames a) gender reliant on the body parts you (don’t) have, b) turning men into women as some kind of punishment and c) having a penis as the root of “bad male behavior” that can therefore be changed by having him lose said penis.

Despite these things and the lengths it has here and there, I do feel that the film offers a lot, especially visually. If you go in prepared for a not unproblematic take on gender and armed with some knowledge of feminism, I think that film can really spark interesting thoughts and discussions.

Summarizing: Needs warning labels and some thinking afterwards, but is probably worth it.

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