A mysterious island sustains its mysteries, and when Tanguy (Anaël Snoek) was wandering its beaches at night, after it had all happened, he met a group of sailors who took advantage of his drunken state to ravage him, since he was showing female characteristics though not fully a woman. To understand what was going on we had to go back a few weeks to when he and his four teenage friends were bringing their fixation on their literature teacher (Nathalie Richard) to a head, gang raping her and tying her to a horse which she fell from and died. In the subsequent investigation, they made up a pack of lies to make it sound like her fault, and an abuser too, so what to do?
Director Bertrand Mandico was best known for his fantastical short films, if he was known at all, but after nearly twenty years of creating those he decided to branch out into something even more ambitious, a feature work that gave him space to explore his concepts of sexuality and all the conundrums that brought with it. Mixing footage of an actual tropical location with fantastical, studio-based efforts, in truth you did wonder if The Wild Boys would have been better at a briefer running time, or perhaps a series of two or three short pieces with a theme, for the experience of watching it may have the novelty wear off long before the end credits rolled across the screen.
Still, you couldn't say he wasn't proving his dedication to his ideas, as this was assuredly the film he wanted to make - you could tell because there was little like it in the work of anyone else, even the further out there directors. You could probably draw comparisons with experimental literature, but with its mixture of black and white footage and colour, consciously artificial premises and consequences, there were perhaps connections to the sort of avant garde efforts that emerged in the nineteen-sixties when silent film was proving an influence on visuals over the soundtrack. This was narrated, and it did have dialogue, but Mandico appeared to be in thrall to his imagery.
The big twist was revealed some time into the plot, but was very guessable, no matter that he left his cast names to the end: he had pretty much blown the reveal when Tanguy is shown to have grown a breast, and not a stuck-on, latex makeup breast either. So if you didn't know what was going on, it was a little more obvious than intended - or maybe Mandico was teasing the audience by allowing them to be aware of the subterfuge so they would continually reassess what they were watching. Besides, the fake genitals the teens sported were not very convincing and would have anyone not in on the joke wondering who the hell the film was trying to fool, no matter that his five leads had been given treated voices to sound more masculine, so that androgyny was the main concern.
After the deadly assault in the first ten minutes, presented in a fantastical way but no less unpalatable for that, the ensemble was sentenced to a trip as crew on a ship helmed by a Captain (Sam Louwyck) who is as strict as he is eccentric, tying the boys with rope around their necks to keep them from getting away (in the middle of the ocean!). But it is the island he takes them to that will change their lives, on the basis that a feminisation process will make the unruliest of people into a docile and compliant citizen, the idea being that women commit fewer crimes than men, presumably. The island itself contains strange plants that either ejaculate substances into the boys' mouths, or provide vegetable vaginas to have sex with, but their lusts are being harnessed into a more improving change, physical as well as mental. If you hadn't guessed after all, the nudity of the last half hour may come as a surprise, but the fact that had actual teenage boys been cast to get up to this rigmarole, Mandico would have likely been arrested does sabotage his inscrutable intentions. Very carefully put together, but incredibly niche in its appeal. Music by Pierre Desprats.