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Savage Nights
Directed by Cyril Collard
Written by Cyril Collard
Jacques Fieschi
Starring Cyril Collard
Romane Bohringer
Carlos López
Corine Blue
Claude Winter
Music by René-Marc Bini
Cyril Collard
Cinematography Manuel Teran
Editing by Lise Beaulieu
Release date(s) France 21 October, 1992
United States 20 March, 1993
United Kingdom 18 June, 1993
Running time 126 mins
Country France
Language French

Les Nuits fauves (English: Savage Nights) is a 1992 French drama film directed and written by Cyril Collard. It stars Collard, Romane Bohringer and Carlos López. The film is an adaptation of Collard's semi autobiographical novel Les Nuits Fauves, published in 1989. It won four César Awards including Best Film.

Contents

Plot

“I feel I go through life like an American tourist, doing as many towns as possible”, explains Jean, a camera man and aspiring film director. Handsome but self-centered and hedonistic, he has a complicated sex life. He is bisexual and HIV positive. During a casting session he meets Laura, a feisty eighteen years old. Captivated by her charm, Jean soon is pursuing her and she quickly falls in love with him. They start a passionate affair. At the same time, the restless Jean pursues a relationship with Samy, a young rugby player. Samy, who has emigrated with his mother and brother from Spain, is unemployed and equally troubled. He is straight and although living with his girlfriend, Marianne, he has not qualms about his homoerotic relationship with Jean, who has a big crush on him.

Jean and Laura relationship is complicated with his HIV status which initially he hides from her. Only after they have had sex, he tells her. At first, Laura is furious and her mother is equally livid. However, Laura is by then deeply in love with Jean. She not only continues the relationship but refuses to use condoms as Jean would have wanted.

Jean is also deeply troubled with accepting his disease. “Drop your illusions. Learn from your disease” suggests his friend Noria. But peaceful acceptance does not come easy for him. His life ricochets from one coupling to the next, trying to make sense of his situation. He is a damned rebel, which he defines as :" Someone marked by fate and with real dignity inside".

Laura has emotional problems of her own. At one point, she erupts at the owner of the dress shop where she works and loses her job. Her feelings reach a boiling point dealing with Jean’s bisexuality that includes not only Jean’s relationship with Samy but anonymous sex with multiple partners in dark cruising spots. In these worthless sex encounters, Jean release his self-destructive drive and finds refuge from the frustrations brought by his illness and his affairs with Laura and Samy.

As Samy acquires a taste for sadomasochism and violence, he turns to Jean. He moves in with him leaving Marianne, who angrily berates Jean. After a fight with racist skinheads Samy finally consummates his relationship with Jean and tells him that he loves him. Laura turns increasingly angry and desperate, disappointed in her relationship with Jean. "Help me to leave you!" is her pathetic cry. Jean is emotionally closed. After a night out of drinking and party Jean yells "I want to live," to his friends but mostly he seems unaware that he is dying. The next morning Laura finds him in bed not only with Samy but with his ex girlfriend. Laura throws a big tantrum and her emotions spring out of control. From then on, she leaves endless long messages in Jean’s answering machine. In some, she begs for love in others she threatens to ruin his life.

Reaching her breaking point, Laura threats Jean with committing suicide and tells him that he has infected her with the aids virus. Only then Jean intervenes and with Laura’s mother they find psychological help for her. Jean repeatedly fails to find meaning in his life. A conversation with his mother is only painful. Returning home, he is involved in car accident. He is as restless in his sex life as with HIV medication which he avoids when it interferes with his drinking and partying.

After sometime Jean looks again for Laura. He finally wants to tell her that he loves her, but she has overcome her turbulent relationship with him. Making peace with herself, Laure has a new boyfriend. Jean and Laura have a short conversation, they kiss tenderly and part ways. Jean finally finds peace with his HIV status and with his life.

Cast

Collard was not his own first choice for Jean, but he took the role when no other French actor was willing to risk playing a character so closely identified with AIDS and bisexuality. Collard's longtime companion, Corine Blue, plays the the role of Laure's mother in the film.

  • Cyril Collard - Jean
  • Romane Bohringer - Laura
  • Carlos López - Samy
  • Corine Blue - Laura’s Mother
  • Claude Winter - Jean’s Mother
  • René-Marc Bini - Marc
  • Maria Schneider - Noria

Reception

Released in October of 1992, Savage Nights caused an immediate stir across France. It went on to take four Cesars (Best Film, Best First Film, Best Film Editing, and Best Female Newcomer - Romane Bohringer) in March 1993 -- three days after its writer/director/star died of AIDs.

Director's view

"AIDS, like tuberculosis in Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain, is just a backdrop [in Savage Nights]. Jean's struggle with the illness is also a struggle with stupidity, with all sorts of racism, with tyranny... Jean acts as though nothing were different in his daily life. He continues to drink, laugh, and drive fast. In his own way, he is shattering the taboos. He does not let himself get locked into the status of being HIV-positive, like some people for whom the illness becomes a sort of identity card."

- Cyril Collard, writer/director/actor, Savage Nights

DVD release

Savage Nights is available in Region 2 DVD. It was released in France.

External links

Preceded by
Tous les matins du monde (film)
César Award for Best Film
1993
Succeeded by
Smoking/No Smoking
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