An intensely personal film, Les nuits fauves tackles the whole issue of AIDS and the hedonistic youth culture with dazzling, indeed shocking, originality and honesty. The film is based on Cyril Collard’s 1989 novel, which is a closely autobiographical account of Collard’s own life after he discovered he was HIV positive. This is not a film for the faint-hearted or the prejudiced. Any notion of political correctness or attempt to present the illness in a soppy ennobling light is totally absent. This is Collard’s own, highly contentious view of the subject, and, as such, it stands as one of the most refreshingly honest and uncompromising films of the 1990s.
The main focus for the film is the effect that Jean’s illness has on his relationship with others, principally his girlfriend Laura. Jean’s gradual acceptance of his illness is accompanied by a growing realisation that he will never achieve fulfilment through his hedonistic lifestyle. As the virus is destroying his body, Laura is attacking his consciousness with equal ferocity and determination. Ultimately, Jean manages to find a way through, to live with his condition and forge a better life for himself. Surprisingly, then, the film ends on an optimistic note, even though we know that its central character is nearing the end of his life.
The most impressive things about this film are the lurid, energetic photography and the intensely emotional performances from its lead actors. Collard himself shows himself to be a creditable actor and is perfectly cast as Jean (even though he had originally envisaged someone else playing the part). Opposite him is Romane Bohringer, a stunning newcomer who brings relentless energy to a very difficult part, the role of Laura. Collard’s real-life partner, Corinne Blue, also appears in the film, as Laura’s mother.
Although the film seems to get a little weighed down in its second half, it manages to recover with a visually stunning final sequence, involving some exceptional panoramic photography. The effect is very uplifting and mirrors perfectly the change in mood of the film’s central character when he finally learns how to live with the AIDS virus. Collard’s rendition of his own melancholic songs gives the film a further note of poignancy.
The film rightly won critical acclaim on its release in 1993. It won four Césars, including the best film award and an award for Romane Bohringer in the best female newcomer category. Collard was unable to receive this praise for his film, though – he died three days before the Césars ceremony from AIDS-related complications, at the age of 35. Collard’s first film was, sadly, to be his last, but he has left his mark on French cinema. –James Travers
Cyril Collard (19 December 1957, Paris – 5 March 1993) was a French author, filmmaker, composer, and actor. He is known for his unapologetic portrayals of bisexuality and HIV in art, particularly his autobiographical novel and film Les nuits fauves (Savage Nights). Openly bisexual, Collard was also one of the first French artists to speak openly about his HIV-positive status.
The semi-autobiographical Savage Nights (Les nuits fauves), finished in 1992, was Collard’s first and only feature film. It won four Césars (best editing, best film, best first work, and most promising actress) in 1993. Unfortunately, Collard did not live to accept his award; he had died three days earlier.
Early in his career, Collard assisted fellow director Maurice Pialat and directed six music videos, as well as several television programs. Among the music videos he directed were those of French-Algerian band Carte de Séjour, whose lead singer Rachid Taha is one… read more
I waited a long time to watch this film (since I first had the opportunity to watch it) and I have to say that I was wrong. This film is free, it is sometimes light-hearted, sometimes down-to-earth, sometimes it's very dark, sometimes very clear. In a way, it's the kind of film that is more than a film but the director's life. You can't ignore that, unless you're stupid.