Bertrand Mandico’s psychedelic, erotic, gender-bending adventure film The Wild Boys was one of my favourite films I saw in 2017. Such was my gushing love for the film that a quote from my review made it into the film’s trailer. It’s an astonishing, visually-resplendent explosion of imagination that I can’t wait for everyone to see (or at least, those cool enough to seek it out).
We at BMD have scored an exclusive clip from the movie, which sets up its key conceit: that its central group of bad boys can have their behaviour corrected by a sea captain whose methods are somewhat...unusual. I also had the chance to ask the film’s director a few questions about the genesis of the project and its unique form of sexual representation.
Check out the clip below, and keep reading for some insights from Mandico.
BMD: How did The Wild Boys first bloom as an idea?
Bertrand Mandico: With the desire to see an adventure film on a screen, esoteric, surreal, with contemporary sexual questioning. I wanted to make the movie that I wanted to see.
What did you set out to explore with this film?
I am trying to erase borders. The boundaries of genre (cinematographic) and sexual boundaries. I want to bring the viewer on an organic, dreamlike, exotic journey that questions them about their own impulses and desires.
What inspirations fed into the your storytelling?
They are many. First of all, literature: a lens between adventure novels that I read as a child - Stevenson, Jules Verne - and teenage readings of Lautréamont and William Burroughs. Connecting those two worlds. And there are many films that have nourished me: Hiroshi Honda's Matango, Lord of the Flies by Peter Brook, Querelle by Fassbinder, Zero for Conduct by Jean Vigo, etc. I also called on music, like Nina Hagen's "Naturträne" or The Stranglers with "Midnight Summer Dream". And finally, some visual artists like Tetsumi Kudo or Henry Darger. The inspiration is varied and helps me build and imagine my story.
Why did you make the decision to shoot so much of the film with rear projection?
I did not want to use a green screen, I only shoot on super 16mm film, and I wanted all that we see on the screen to come from the film; there is no post-production image. What we see is what I film, it's my truth. So, we filmed oceans that were projected behind the boat. This process, visible and invisible, refers to the very idea of cinema and the notion of poetic faking, as defined by Cocteau.
There is also the notion of screen within the screen, which is a way to cinematographically capture the influence that screens have in our society. So viewers see themselves watching screens infinitely. I want to render that metaphorically in my film, not literally.
How did your all-female cast respond to playing abusive boys?
They loved playing as boys - it opened up a new field of interpretation. It is a way to summon their masculine side and to find the bad boys sleeping in their buried memories. Even exorcise some traumas. Myself, I would never have made the film with male actors. With this story and these situations, it was essential that they be female actors. A way to create a "healthy" distance with my story.
How do you see the film's contribution to gender and sexual representation on screen?
I am tired of this basic binary representation of man and woman. Men always play men and women always play women. I think it is time to have fun playing with sexual representation. I was deeply impressed by Cate Blanchett's rendition of Bob Dylan in Todd Haynes' film I’m Not There. For me, this kind of isolated action should no longer be an exception, but a principle of possibility for actors and actresses. That's what I tried to do with The Wild Boys.
What's the most erotic fruit, vegetable, or plant?
The fig. When it’s cut from the tree, milk comes out of it. When the pulp is removed, an opening appears, lined with hundreds of small sweet tentacles that caress the tongue…
The Wild Boys opens in Los Angeles' Laemmle’s Music Hall 3 on August 24th, before expanding to a platform release.