In 1962, François Truffaut set the bar for menage-a-trois with Jules Et Jim, a deeply engaging exploration of three people caught between love and lust. Wild Side attempts to take the concept further by adding a bi/transsexual element to the equation, but fails miserably.

Bleak, dull and lifeless can only begin to describe director Sebastien Lifshitz's effort. Following the lives of transsexual prostitute Stephanie (Stephanie Michelini), her Russian bisexual lover Mikhail (Edouard Nikitine) and his male lover Jamel (Yasmine Belmadi), we are taken down a despondent road of misery, uncertainty and painful nostalgia, as three people try to come to terms with their convoluted lives and salacious lust for one another.

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The narrative is conveyed largely through the experience of Stephanie, who was born Pierre and has at some point had a sex change, when she returns to the village where Pierre spent his childhood to live with her mother (Josiane Stoleru), who is ill with grief and quiet anxiety for what her daughter has become. Introducing Mikhail as her boyfriend throws another spanner in the works, adding to her mother's perplexity.

By night, Stephanie wanders the streets as a transsexual hooker, playing the sybaritic field, while Mikhail cops off with new kid on the block, Jamel, his alternative lover. All three then screw around, vying for each other's affection, in the hope of finding a solution to their menage-a-trois. Naturally, this doesn't happen. Neither writer, nor director, seal the package neatly, leaving the consequences of actions open ended and without resolve.

Wild Side's biggest disappointment is that hardly anything happens. Using flashbacks to Stephanie's childhood reveals little, other than a confused state of mind. While we learn that her father has died and would have rejected her as a transsexual, too much is left for the audience to unravel, with so little to go on. Of the three, her character is the most developed, while precious little is revealed of Mikhail, or Jamel.

The actors cannot be faulted, but the script is extremely limited, so they are left with bare bones. In the end, you just don't care and can't get through the 91 minutes quickly enough.

Reviewed on: 17 Oct 2005
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Exploring the lifestyles of three characters involved in a bi/transsexual menage-a-trois.
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Chris ****

Director: Sébastien Lifshitz

Writer: Stéphane Bouquet, Sébastien Lifshitz

Starring: Stephanie Michelini, Yasmine Belmadi, Edouard Nikitine, Josiane Stoleru

Year: 2004

Runtime: 91 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: France/Belgium/UK


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