French filmmaker Cyril Collard published Les Nuits Fauves, his autobiographical novel, in 1989. It relates events in the life of Jean (Collard), a 30-year old Parisian who, in 1986, is diagnosed as being HIV-positive. Unwilling to acknowledge that the virus has made him different, Jean continues his promiscuous bisexual life, pursuing a male lover by the name of Samy (Carlos Lopez), and falling in love with seventeen-year old Laura (Romane Bohringer).
In 1992, Collard (together with longtime companion Corine Blue) brought the book to the screen. Released in October of that year, Savage Nights caused an immediate stir across France. It went on to take four Cesars (Best Film, Best First Film, Best Film Editing, and Best Female Newcomer - Romane Bohringer) in March 1993 -- three days after its writer/director/star died of AIDS. As was Collard's intention, this film is about the relationship between Jean and Laura, with AIDS serving as a vital backdrop for their interactions. Theirs is a twisted, dysfunctional affair, with jealousy and co-dependence working to destroy them. Vacillating from one extreme and one lover to the other, Jean unwittingly wreaks emotional havoc in Laura's life. Meanwhile, Samy finds himself slowly drawn into Jean's orbit. As a love story, this is dark and tempestuous, filled with searing arguments that become progressively more violent. Giving a stunning performance in her debut is Romane Bohringer, the talented daughter of actor Richard Bohringer. The part of Laura, which not only earned Bohringer a Cesar, but also the role of the title character in The Accompanist, demands an extreme output of energy and emotion, and there is no instance when the actress isn't up to the task. Her scenes with co-star Cyril Collard crackle with intensity. Speaking of Collard, he wasn't his own first choice for Jean, but he took the role when no other French actor was willing to risk playing a character so closely identified with AIDS and bisexuality. In retrospect, the ultimate casting of Jean is perfect, leaving us this legacy of Collard's skills as an actor. In spite of its use of melodrama and emotional hyperbole, Les Nuits fauves is refreshingly original in its rejection of the two standard narrative options—victimization and deification—typical of melodramas that use illness as their point of departure.
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