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Review: Sexually charged, gender-twisting ‘The Wild Boys’ recalls early Todd Haynes

Review: Sexually charged, gender-twisting ‘The Wild Boys’ recalls early Todd Haynes
Vimala Pons in the movie "The Wild Boys." (Altered Innocence)

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.

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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.

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‘The Wild Boys’

In French and English with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Playing: Starts Aug. 24, Laemmle Music Hall, Beverly Hills

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