I can’t remember the last time I was so riveted by a film, especially the perfect first 30 minutes or so of director Robin Campillo’s Eastern Boys. It’s like Larry Clark’s 1995 film Kids mixed with the “what the fuck is gonna happen next?” intensity of Michael Haneke’s 2007 film Funny Games. It plays with your brain and your loins.
Olivier Rabourdin plays Daniel, a tired, middle-aged Frenchman cruising Paris’s Gare du Nord. We watch him as if by surveillance, with the camera shooting from way above, never zooming in close to the many young Ukrainian, Russian and other Eastern European boys who weave through the crowds of train passengers. Even from a distance, with the boys’ posturing, cigarettes dangling on their lips, the new sneakers — we just know these bad boys, the gang of them, are sexy trouble.
Daniel senses the danger, but that’s also the thrill. He’s obsessed with one boy and follows him to a secluded area under a staircase in a shopping centre. The boy’s name is Marek (Kirill Emelyanov), and he agrees to meet the next day for sex at Daniel’s sleek apartment. It’ll cost Daniel 50 euros.
The next day there’s a knock on Daniel’s door; it’s a boy no more than 14, and he’s definitely not Marek. We the audience know this kid is a member of the gang.
There’s a constant feeling of suspense and danger in Eastern Boys, a hovering sense that something monumentally horrendous is going to happen to Daniel or Marek. Yet most scenes are shot in bright, sunny daylight. It has the stark coldness of Hitchcock’s Vertigo: streets are vacant, stores lack shoppers. And I never knew there are parts of Paris that look like Surrey.