(Screened at Fantastic Fest; U.S. release TBA; opens in France in January)
Coming-of-age metaphors collide messily in Savage (Les Fauves), a weak-willed French drama by Vincent Mariette in which teenage Laura (Lily-Rose Depp), spending the summer with cousins at a campground, is intrigued by the rumor that there’s a leopard loose in the woods. The alleged feline has been blamed for the deaths of local animals and even some human disappearances, and campers are on edge, especially after a boy Laura hooked up with goes missing. But Laura meets a reclusive, handsome writer named Paul Baltimore (Laurent Lafitte) who tells her he’s been perpetuating the leopard hoax himself, partly to give society the pleasure of a mystery (hoo boy, he’s very French) and partly to cover his own animal-killing activities (he uses a metal claw to replicate leopard slashes). Laura is fascinated by this, fascinated by Paul, fascinated by secrets, fascinated by the prospect of dead animals. (“Dead horses are beautiful,” she says. “I read a poem about it.”) A police investigator (Camille Cottin) whose own husband vanished last year adds intrigue to a film that’s ultimately more interested in presenting ambiguous symbols for adolescent awakening than in telling a story. Mariette and co-writer Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq, too timid in their approach to the material, let it fall into the boring gap between bold genre thrills and high-minded arthouse metaphors.