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Young men make tough, clear choices in 'Shéhérazade' and 'Sauvage'

By Rosslyn Hyams

In this month's Cinefile, RFI's Rosslyn Hyams meets artists from two French feature films. Both stories about the rougher or tougher side of life: Shéhérazade and Sauvage.


In the sunny port of Marseille, director Jean-Bernard Marlin sets a true-story based on the experiences of teenagers who roam the streets in less salubrious areas and hang out with local, and barely older gang-leaders in housing estates near the city limits.

Marlin cast Dylan Robert who'd just been released from a deliquent's centre in real life, as his hero, Zac. Not a professional actor, but with charm and vitality, able to convey different emotions from joy to anger to love and Robert should be well on his way after this first on-camera try.

Marlin's leading lady, Kenza Fortas who plays the title role, makes a huge impact in her debut role. She incarnates a street-wise character, forced to grow up before her time, who after cracking tough deals in exchange for her body, falls asleep in Zac's arms like a baby.

Still from 'Shéhérazade' by Jean-Bernard Marlin Ad Vitam

With the city by night and by day as a backdrop, these unbridled youths seem to take possession of the streets, becoming involved in violent as well as petty crime.

The camera seems to be constantly on the go. Marlin stays close to Zac and Shéhérazade as they take on eastern European gangsters, local gangsters and disinterested parents.

The story could take place in any other city or any other region says the director, "I researched the background to the true love story that took place in Marseille between a very young prostitute and the boy who became her pimp. That was just the starting point. Afterwards I went to the areas where the prostitutes were. I talked to many of the yong girls, and then I dramatised the situations for my screenplay."

Marlin, admits an affinity with the films of Pier Paolo Pasolini, "especially his first two films, Amaroma and Accatone where he worked with actors who had no previous experience, and people we don't often see in cinema. Also Elia Kazan, for his ambiguous relationships and contradictions in the characters, like in America, Amercia or On the Waterfront... I think my main character is not so dissimilar to the main character in On the Waterfront [Marlon Brando].

Without giving the game away, one reason he chose a happy ending was to prevent his first feature (after an award-winning short called Fugue or Runaway)   falling into the banality of real-life.

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