When it comes to movies we all have ‘guilty pleasures’ or ‘bad movies we love’ that we really don’t want to admit. One of them for me, and I’ve never seen it it in it’s entirely, or do I know French, is a rather berserk little film from 1975 featuring French Actress Catherine Deneuve called Le Sauvage (Call Me Savage AKA Lovers Like Us). From the decade that, in my opinion, where her Chanel No 5 commercials were way better than any of her movies, she stumbles into Bardot territory with this one. Let’s just say that Francois Truffaut’s The Last Metro didn’t come a moment too soon.
In Le Sauvage then 32-year-old Deneuve plays Nelly, the breathtakingly beautiful fiancée of a Latin American crime boss. She suddenly realizes at what looks like an engagement party, also known as the opening credits, that she just doesn’t want to be married to him anymore. Escaping the would-be groom’s amorous intentions, she runs to her ex-boss Alex Fox, played by Tony Roberts, where after changing her clothes in front of him yanks off the wall his priceless French Impressionist Painting (which apparently no owner of a third-rate disco can do without) and runs into the streets of this South American metropolis she’s stuck in. It is there that Nelly meets Martin, none other than 54-year-old French film legend Yves Montand who is there with his own crack pot scheme; believe it not something to do with perfume. She asks for his help, he gives it to her, she returns the favor by hiring a plane to take her to the tropical island where Martin lives. There, Nelly begins to drive him crazy and a battle of wills commences. He throws her into his boat. She takes an ax and sinks the boat. He dives into the water and swims after her, still holding onto that painting, back to shore. She steals his food, he whistles after her. She locks him in his cellar, he escapes. She runs away, he throws a pineapple at her. Of course, after all that they fall in love. However, it’s not just love, it’s SAVAGE LOVE!
Despite the casual sexism, flimsy plot, bad clothes, bad acting on Roberts’ part, and of course the essential gratuitous topless scene, Le Sauvage has a charm of its’ own. Not only that, it’s all set in a tropical paradise of untold riches where there are gorgeous beaches, world class airports, and natives who speak pretty good French. A Francophone Costa Rica for the 70’s if you will.
Did I forget to mention that the country was Venezuela? Despite the irony, what is going on down there now will be left for another time. However back in 1975 it was the perfect place to apparently make a romantic comedy. In fact, it seems that back in France it’s considered a classic.
Unfortunately for me, I cannot at the moment see for myself how true it was. I was watching our heroine’s plane being turned back at the airport when something came up and I couldn’t finish it the one time I caught it on television. However, from what I saw of it, and clips on YouTube, it was for me a hoot. So, I really don’t know how it all ends for our couple. Does Martin take Nelly to Paris where they live happily ever after? Does she do commercials selling his perfume? Does Alex ever get back that painting? When it ever comes back on Turner Classic Movies, or pops up at the Cleveland Cinematheque, I will have to drop everything and find out.
Link to film clip courtesy of YouTube. Can be deleted at any time.