Diversified Bonds: Hybrid Director’s Elliptical Cinema


“I made Wild Side as a kind of reaction to what I was seeing in French cinema—this very false vision of the country as being unchangeable and eternal,” says director Sébastien Lifshitz, whose latest film opens Friday. “French society today is diverse and complicated. I’m half Jewish, half Catholic, and my family comes from Egypt, France, and Italy. I’ve always been nourished by opposing elements.”

Wild Side‘s central threesome is an alt-U.N. of social marginality—a French transsexual, a young Arab male prostitute, and a Russian refugee living together in quasi-platonic harmony. Fascinated by the hybrid form, Lifshitz, 37, describes the movie as both a work of fiction and “a kind of documentary portrait” of the largely nonprofessional cast. “I tried to create a double aesthetic by using non-actors as if they were raw elements within a fictional work,” he says. “It’s the opposite of American cinema, which is rooted in storytelling and symbolism.”

Constructed in elliptical fragments, the movie’s form was the result of Lifshitz’s idiosyncratic working style. “While I’m filming, my editor receives the rushes and her assistant enters them into the computer without the clapper indications, so that she has no references. Since I film out of order, she has to imagine the links between scenes and characters. In the end, we compare the results to what was in the screenplay.”

Could Lifshitz live in a ménage à trois like his characters? “Why not?” he laughs. “It’s just another form of love. You can look at it as something that’s doomed, like in Jules and Jim. Or in the case of Wild Side, there’s still hope that this family can survive together, even if that hope is fragile.”