Writer-director Bertrand Mandico’s “The Wild Boys” is a heady, sexually charged take on “Lord of the Flies” — an exciting sail on the waters of gender fluidity that energetically skewers any notion of the binary.
The film is a mood, an aesthetic, an idea; a sensory cinematic experience more than a story, but the plot follows a group of lusty teenage boys (played by female actors) who are conscripted to nautical behavioral therapy after the brutal rape of their teacher. Tanguy (Anaël Snoek), Jean-Louis (Vimala Pons, riveting, sexy and scary as the assertive alpha), Hubert (Diane Rouxel), Sloane (Mathilde Warnier) and Romuald (Pauline Lorillard) are sent to sea with a rough sea captain (Sam Louwyck) who has a special method for taming their unchecked testosterone.
They land on a tropical island filled with sensual delights and, partaking of the island’s pleasures, the boys’ bodies start to transform, softening, developing breasts, shedding phalli, which sends them into a terror before they eventually embrace their new forms.
Pascale Granel’s contrasty black and white super 16mm cinematography is a lush visual delight, the highlights sparkling against the blackest blacks. In style and content, “The Wild Boys” feels like a Guy Maddin production by way of early Todd Haynes, with an unabashed erotic streak. It boldly dives into the in-between, the liminal spaces where bodies simply are, existing in any form they take, rather than relegated into social categories.
‘The Wild Boys’
In French and English with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes
Playing: Starts Aug. 24, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills