by Douglas Messerli
Olivier Rouvièr and Anne Fontaine (scenario and screenplay), Anne Fontaine (director) Tapin du soir (Night Hustler) / 1996
In 1996 French Television showed a series of ten LGBTQ films, each presented on a different evening, by a wide range of international directors titled L’Amour est à réinventer. The 7th episode of the series, Tapin du soir (Night Hustler), a 5 minute short, directed by Anne Fontaine, was aired on November 8, 1996.
This is an extremely simple but lovely and rather disconcerting short film that charms one more in afterthought than upon first viewing.
Voices begin to be heard even before we see the first image of a rather attractive young man (Franck Demules) walking the night streets of a city. We hear one voice offering a blow job for $40, so we presume immediately that we must be near a popular urban pick-up spot for gay prostitutes. And, accordingly, it is likely that the young man we follow, is a hustler as well. When he passes a young black man who asks for a cigarette we discover, however, from questions that the black hustler asks—“You new here?” and “Are you working”—that our assumptions may be wrong. The young “hero” denies he is “working.”
So it appears the boy is a hustler after all, and he is working the street that night, even if he’s new to it. But something happens once again that alters the way we perceive what we have just witnessed. The boy starts up a conversation, “It’s cold tonight...don’t you think?”
The man gruffly agrees and announces he’ll take the boy back to where he picked him up. But the boy asks the unthinkable: “You want to suck me off too?”
“No, that’s enough,” replies his apparently satisfied customer.
“I can be gentle, you know,” the boy adds, twisting the conversation into another dimension. Presumably, a true hustler wouldn’t want to cum simply because someone else might hire him later for the same pleasure. Another $40 or even more be made that evening. And “gentleness?” Perhaps for some customers but not for others. It is certainly not a general qualification. Some like it rough.
His gentleman friend pretends to turn the tables, so to speak. “Really. You’d pay for it?”
“Yes,” he immediately responds. “That would be funny.” But despite the man’s dismissal (“You’re wasting your time”), he’s serious: “I’ll give your forty dollars back.”
“I’m not interested. I’ve got to get home.”
A young boy is determined if nothing else. “I want you to suck me off. I need it.”
The gentleman finally realizes that something is strange here. “You’re a funny sort of hustler. Nothing better to do?”
The customer starts up the car and begins to drive off. “Let’s go have a drink.”
Los Angeles, April 4, 2021
Reprinted from My Queer Cinema blog and World Cinema Review (April 2021).