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Wild Side (2005)
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by Chris Parry

"It's tedious, but it has drag queens in it, so I guess it's art."
2 stars

Stephanie (Stephanie Michelini) is a French pre-op transsexual prostitute who shares a home with a bisexual Russian refugee and an Arab rent boy. Welcome to the world of film festival cinema. We hope you enjoy your stay, or at least don't fall asleep in the next hour and a half.

So you know the set up. Now here's the twist. Stephanie's mother is dying, so the three go visit her in Northern France where they each have a life changing moment or two and realize they they love each other, but hate themselves. The real question is, does the audience share that self-loathing? I certainly did. Heck, I could have seen one of three other films when I decided to stay in this theater and avoid a one mile walk to the other venues, so it was ultimately me laziness that caused me to have to endure this dross.

And it is dross. I'm sure there are many who think of this as a brave and audacious work, but it isn't. It's formula Euro-indie, mixing every piece of the same old puzzle that assures a film can't be criticized without the critic being called 'not smart enough' to understand the story.

Well, I understood just fine. I got it. From the fifteenth minute I got it. Being a pre-op hooker isn't easy. Being a Russian immigrant with a past isn't easy. Being a Middle Eastern boy toy isn't easy. But my response to that is simple - SFW?

There are scenes in the film that show glimmers of a point. Stephanie's mother (Josiane Storelu) features in a few scenes that involve the issue of how family deals with a monsieur coming home as a mademoiselle, and the odd sense of family that forms within the main trio in the film has moments of importance, but these come in between minutes and minutes and minutes of absolutely nothing. This is the kind of film where, if someone boils an egg, we're going to be watching that egg until it's boiled.

The performances are just fine. Yasmine Belmadi, the aforementioned Arab boy whore, is fantastic in his co-starring role. Mixing bravado, fear, disgust and adoration, his character is the real star of the show. Edouard Nikitine (the Russki of the bunch) is well and good, and Stephanie Michelini is passable (if anatomically qualified) for the lead.

But there's just nothing here. We're not shocked by the image of a woman with a penis anymore, because this isn't 1982. So long slow pans down the body, past the breasts to the penis just don't serve any purpose. "Yes, she has a dick. You showed us that dick three minutes ago. Oh look, here it comes again."

Hey, I'm no prude. In fac, at this same festival last year I applauded loudly for another Frnech film dealing with sexuality called Porn Theater, despite the fact that 2/3 of the audience walked out. That was a film that was brave, as well as tleling a story about a scene that I didn't know about. But transvestites and refugees and threesomes and prostitution is about as cutting edge as movies about giant asteroids about to hit planet Earth. In fact, films like this are almost their very own stereotype. Add some lesbian cowboys eating pudding and you have yourself a South Park episode. Hedwig and the Angry Inch had more social relevance.

Slow, empty, cliched, uninteresting, outta here.

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originally posted: 06/18/04 07:45:00
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Vancouver Film Festival For more in the 2005 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

12/22/04 jim fouratt/Reel Real Excellent and sensitive prrk into the world of boys who look like women and the men who lov 5 stars
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  24-Jun-2005 (NR)
  DVD: 25-Oct-2005



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