A beautiful transsexual prostitute (Stéphanie Michelini), a bi-sexual North African (Yasmine Belmadi), and a clandestine Russian immigrant (Edouard Nikitine) are the focus of attention in Sebastien Lifshitz's (Come Undone) latest film about love, passion, and broken dreams. Certainly a film that will make prude audiences shift uncomfortably in their seats Wild Side is a poetic journey to a place where genders are a thing of the past.
In a remote village of the French countryside Stephanie has come home to her critically ill mother. Time is running out and the boy who once chose to live his life as a woman is now slowly beginning to remember where it all started. Followed by Michail, her charismatic Russian boyfriend, and Djamel a bisexual hustler who earns his money at the train station in Paris, Stephanie and her two lovers will learn to share their lives away from everyone else.
Not since Patrice Chereau's Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train (1998) have I seen a film so edgy yet so utterly poetic in the way love is being depicted. Clearly an unconventional story about love between three human beings forced to live their lives as social misfits Wild Side is a film that asks some important questions. Wrapped in a sublime music score by Jocelyn Pook, who worked on Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut (1999), and complimented by Agnes Godard's beautiful cinematography this recent French film undoubtedly has it all. From the question mark which Wild Side places next to the standard description for family to the uneasy and often graphic depiction of human degradation Sebastian Lisfshitz's Wild Side is as provocative as it is mesmerizing in its visual beauty.
I am uncertain how Wild Side will resonate with the majority of viewers who are keen on exploring contemporary French cinema. What I am certain of is that the film will have an effect on you…be it positive or negative…I know that by the time the end credits roll you will most certainly have an opinion about this recent production. As far as I am concerned, Wild Side made me think for days about life, stereotypes, morality, and all the politically correct "criticism" which society is willing to offer when characters such as Stephanie, Djamel, and Michail are being discussed. I am also fairly certain that such an honest film is very unlikely to be produced in America due to a number of reasons.
Above everything else however Sebastian Lifshitz has created an enormously beautiful film to behold. Saturated with stunning vistas of the gorgeous French countryside Wild Side plays with your senses offering striking contrasts where the grimness and horror from the main protagonists' lives is countered with an almost fairytale-like panorama of dreamy flashbacks recalling Stephanie's youth. Even in those peaceful moments however Wild Side remains devastatingly realistic and as harsh in its honest depiction of human suffering as a film dealing with the subject should be.
Wild Side is the winner of the Manfred Salzgeber Award and the Teddy Award (Best Feature Film) at the Berlin International Film Festival (2004) as well as the Special Jury Award at the Gijon International Film Festival, Spain (2004).
How Does the Film Look?
Presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen TV's Wild Side does appear to be a direct port of the French disc hence this is an obvious PAL to NTSC transfer. With this said the picture quality is indeed impressive. There are vibrant colors, excellent degree of contrast, and a film print virtually free of any sort of damage. Overall had it been transferred properly this could have been one remarkably looking DVD which on top of everything else boasts an excellent cover as well. What a missed opportunity.
How Does the DVD Sound?
It is a bit of a shame that the DVD offers only a French 2.0 track as the music score is absolutely hypnotic!! I certainly did not notice any major flaws with the audio presentation but do believe that Wild Side would have been much more impressive had there been a more active 5.1 track. In French with small yellow English subtitles.
In addition to a few very short deleted scenes that preceded by short notes from the director there is also a full length interview with Sebastian Lisfshitz which I strongly recommend as bring a great deal of depth to a story that many will see as being rather controversial. There is also a filmography and a gallery of trailers which includes the original theatrical trailer to Wild Side.
A beautifully composed film yet so edgy!! I loved the tender camera of Sebastian Lifshitz which successfully countered the mostly gritty look of Wild Side. I certainly think that there is a good reason why Wild Side was so highly decorated at the Berlin International Film Festival. I could not recommend this film highly enough. Unfortunately the presentation is a bit disappointing. Let me point out that I am probably one of the few left that still has a lot of confidence in Wellspring but they simply have to start converting their transfers properly. There is no doubt in my mind that Wild Side could have been the perfect DVD to own had there been a deserving transfer. I won't give up on Wellspring but I think that the time for change has finally come. Bearing in mind the nature of the DVD transfer: RECOMMENDED.