Infectious desires

Savage Nights (Les Naits Fauves) has taken France by storm with its passionate account of living with AIDS. Trevor Johnsonton talked to its co-star, Romaine Bohringer.

You can usually spot performers‘ promotional bullshit a mile off. but to hear Romaine Bohringer recall the making of Savage Nights with Cyril Collard is to realise the difference between your usual PR puffery and a young woman who‘s been through an experience she‘ll never forget. “What has really changed me through doing the film is the rediscovery of the price of life.‘ maintains the twenty-year-old Parisienne. sentiments that this particular viewer would wholeheartedly endorse. And that‘s not your well-wom critical overkill either.

‘Yes, it’s a modern movie with all of modern love in there, but Cyril never wanted to make something that was Just an “AIDS movie”.’

Sure. it'll be pigeon-holed as a ‘AIDS movie‘. but Collard‘s Savage Nights is a staggering. fucked-up paean to being alive and in love a movie to break the bounds of any categorisation you care to wrap round it. Here is life and death stuff. Life —- as in being dumb and irresponsible; as in driving too fast and drinking too much; as in fucking and getting fucked by the wrong people too. Towering over most ofthe other films you‘ll see this year. this troubling and brilliant work stands as a lasting testament to its writer. director and star. who died of AIDS last March at the age of 35.

Les Nuirs Fauves. as it is known in French. the title vividly redolent of animalism and passion. started life as Collard‘s own powerful Genet-inspired novel. and. thankfully. the author lived to see the extraordinary success of its screen incarnation. Fittingly, for a movie born out of his own turbulent life and times. Collard (a former assistant to director Maurice Pialat) took the leading role. His Jean is a reckless and openly bisexual filmmaker and musician who has an affair with eighteen-year-old Laura (Bohringer. daugher of Diva and Subway star Richard). at the same time carrying on with similarly bisexual Sarny (Carlos Lopez) and. unbeknown to either partner. also leading a secret nocturnal life of wordless gay encounters and group sex beneath the bridges of Paris.

While we can admire Jean's good looks and his zest for experience. he‘s by no means a sympathetic character. He has unprotected sex with Laura - who throws away his condoms and contends that love will

I keep her safe ~— but then has to confront her

3 anguished and increasingly obsessive behaviour

3 when he reveals to her he has tested HIV positive. Thus. in the face of his own mortality. begins Jean's final reckoning with the value of his own existence. a rocky odyssey towards acknowledging his own responsibilities and at length waking up to the primacy of love over sex.

Towering over most of the films you’ll see this year.

With its amphetamine pacing and raw intensity. Collard's movie has found a cinematic form and tone for the urban 90s. its restless handheld camera and ever-probing editing conjuring up a rare mercurial immediacy. It connects. reports Bohringcr, who checked out the long queues on the lilm's very lirst day of release. “The success in Paris has been extraordinary. not just in terms of the numbers. but in the way people are reacting to the movie. It's the first time anyone's found a way of speaking to audiences right across the board. I get letters from all over


a -: , . “I . . i Savage lights: ‘a staggering, tucked-up paean to being alive and in love'

saying. “Cyril's like my friend. like my brother.“ We had a sense while we were making the film that it was good work we were doing. I could never have expected anything like this. It's really a cult movie.‘ First spotted in Peter Brook‘s The Tempest. young

Bohringer tested extensively for her part, including one marathon three-day session. before Collard announced that she‘d secured the role. As the passionate Laura. whose attitude towards safe sex is foolhardy. to say the least. she‘s a character to make

you scream at the screen. “Put that condom back on!‘ Yet. while her fallability makes her very human. her irresponsibility acts on the audience with a good deal ofpropaganda value. “I didn't know ifl was up to it. but I did it with my heart.‘ reflects the actress herself. “To me. Laura‘s such a beautiful person. everything she did. i understood. Above all. the film is a love

story. a life story. Yes. it's a modern movie with all of

modern love in there. but Cyril never wanted to make something that wasjust an “AIDS movie" '

3 Savage Nights (Les Nails Faut'es) opens at the [Edinburgh Cameo (m Friday 2 July. and runs a! [he I Glasgow I’i/m 'I'liealre from Sunday 4—Sat /7 July.

l The List 2~|5 July l‘)‘)3 21