This long-lost masterpiece of gay erotic cinema centers on a handsome young stud who rides his motorcycle through a myriad of sexual encounters, from a soccer game’s locker room to a dreamy and unsettling orgy where the film reaches its melancholic peak. Newly scanned in 2K from the original camera negative and directed with absolute grace by the mysterious Dietrich de Velsa (aka Francis Savel / Frantz Salieri): this former painter was also the owner and artistic director of one of the first transvestites’ cabaret of Paris, La Grande Eugène. Years later, he collaborated with Joseph Losey on Mr. Klein (1976) and Don Giovanni (1979). EQUATION TO AN UNKNOWN is his only film and stands without a doubt as a masterpiece and the best French gay adult film ever made.
Recently unearthed and being given a mini-roadshow in tandem with Yann Gonzalez’s gay slasher pastiche UN COUTEAU DANS LE COEUR (vexingly rendered into pidgin English as KNIFE+HEART), EQUATION TO AN UNKNOWN is an essentially lost French hardcore film from the early ’80s, perhaps not quite the major discovery it’s being touted as, but nevertheless worth a look for connoisseurs of the genre.
The loose plot follows a couple roommates/lovers and their intimacy issues, with the principle protagonist (Gianfranco Longhi, credited appropriately enough as “La figure principale”) engaging in an increasing number of trysts with random lovers. The wild opening finds the members of a French football club all playing grab-ass in the showers before a few succumb to more carnal urges in private. As the film progresses, Longhi spends a lot of time cruising around Paris on his motorcycle, picking up random guys along the way. When the prodigal lover finally returns to his beau back home, the two attempt to reconcile their feelings monogamously, though Longhi soon slips into reverie and fantasizes himself joined by his litany of paramours from throughout the film. “I wish I could love only you,” he whispers, with his boyfriend seeming to accept his lover’s hypersexuality as the price of admission for their relationship. The end finds them cruising around the streets of Paris on a bike as the director reads out the credits in voiceover, a la CONTEMPT.
Apparently the sole directorial credit of Francis Savel (operating under the rather florid pseudonym of Dietrich de Velsa), EQUATION heralds a decent pornographic talent, with Savel and DP Francois About evincing a keen eye for composition and lighting that results in some beautiful tableaux. The cast is uniformly gorgeous, and may have viewers wishing they could book a ticket back to Paris in 1980. Unfortunately, many of them are also pretty similar looking, and it wasn’t until the end that I even realized I was watching a linear narrative – up until then, I’d thought the film was following more of a LA RONDE-style narrative pass-off structure adopted by so many low-budget American sex flicks.
EQUATION definitely has something to say about fidelity in gay romance, and its argument in favor of free love is appreciated (if in retrospect tragically naive in light of the oncoming AIDS crisis); however, it does end up inadvertently subverting its central thesis merely by virtue of its length – at 94 minutes, the film is a marathon, and would probably have played better with a few of its lesser escapades cut for time. Nevertheless, it’s got a lot more going on stylistically and intellectually than the majority of US productions from the time, and is well worth a look for porn connoisseurs. Cap that off with a barn-burner of a closing orgy and one of the best male masturbation scenes ever committed to film, and you have a movies whose reemergence from obscurity is welcome and most appreciated.
Director: Francis Savel (as Dietrich de Velsa)
Writer: Francis Savel (as Dietrich de Velsa)
Stars: Gianfranco Longhi, Jean-Jacques Loupmon, Reinhard Montz
Release Date: 19 March 1980 (France)
Also Known As: Equation to an Unknown
Format : Matroska
Format version : Version 4
File size : 3.99 GiB
Duration : 1 h 39 min
Overall bit rate : 5 745 kb/s