Ever wondered where the cut-off point between a short film and a feature-length one is? Well, it’s generally considered to be 40 minutes, which is, for example, the length the Oscars use. The documentary Sagat clocks in 41 minutes, so it just about fits into the feature-length category (it was originally made to fit in an hour long slot – including adverts – on French TV channel Canal+), although I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know there’s more than 70 of special features to bump up the amount you can get out of the disc.
Just from the title many fans of gay porn will know what Sagat is about, but if you’ve never heard about Francois Sagat, he’s a Frenchman who around 10 years ago erupted out of nowhere and took the gay porn world by storm, fast becoming one of the few people whose name alone could sell a porn movie.
His unique look and attitude also started getting him noticed outside the porn world, resulting in work as a model, and in non-porn films, such as Man In Bath, Saw VI and LA Zombie. And while the documentary doesn’t talk about it much, he’s also dabbled in music and public awareness campaigns.
The documentary is a mix of interviews with Francois and those around him, such as famed porn director Chi Chi Larue, looking at Sagat and what makes him tick. He’s a complicated figure, who seems to both embrace and reject the porn world. Indeed if there’s anything I took away from this documentary is the idea of a rather conflicted man.
He’s described as being a rather small, effeminate boy, subject to teasing and bullying. As an adult he’s made his body almost like an art project to represent the ultimate in hyper-masculinity. However as he says, while he thought this would bring him happiness, it didn’t, and it’s largely because that rather fey boy is still inside. His love of costumes and masks seems to be a way to try and synthesise the two sides of himself, with Sagat seeming to feel that something is only true if expressed outwardly.
Even his famed scalp tattoo is something he feels conflicted about. He got it as his natural hair was thinning, but now he seems frustrated by it. It helped give him his career thanks to its iconic look, but now it means people either stare at him because he’s so recognisable (at least to a certain sections of society), or because they’ve never seen anyone with a tattooed-on crew cut before. As a result, like much of the rest of his life, he’s in two minds about it.
There’s a sense of the frustrated artist about Sagat, and also that he feels that he should be more than he is (and hence the slight rejection of porn world – not the porn itself but things around it, such as porn stars becoming escorts). Yet it doesn’t feel that he knows exactly what or who he is, and all the different sides to him are his ways of finding out.
It’s all quite intriguing, even if in 41 minutes it doesn’t have much time to go particularly deep into it.
It should also be noted that we’re getting a censored version in the UK. The original cut included footage from some of Francois’ hardcore scenes and photoshoots, this 18-rated version either blurs the most explicit images or zooms into them to removes the sight of actual sex. It’s not too distracting and doesn’t affect the documentary too much (unless you only want to watch it for the shagging, of course).
In the special features there’s a fair amount of bonus footage – such as Sagat talking about his love of drawing, extended footage of him wearing costumes that turn him into a kind of camp, bondage action figure, and an interview where he’s asked 24 ‘stupid’ questions. There are also some of Francois’ own films, most of which seem to suggest avant-garde filmmaking isn’t his forte (although one, featuring a fellow porn star, is actually pretty good). On the sexier side there’s also footage of him working out and taking a shower.
Overall Verdict: An intriguing documentary that is perhaps too short to really get to the heart of who Francois Sagat is. Even so, he’s an interesting figure and it’s worth getting to know him, even if only briefly.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac