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Before they leave the restaurant, LaBruce and Sagat cluster around the ma'tre d' stand, shooting for a Canal+ documentary about Sagat. LaBruce explains that they first met when he was casting a photo shoot for French gay magazine T'tu. Planning to recreate Godard's Nouvelle Vague masterpiece Breathless, he looked at Sagat for the gamine Jean Seberg role. And passed.
The day after the New York City premiere, LaBruce meets me for breakfast at a West Village diner. Sagat may not make a good Jean Seberg, but LaBruce is quick to praise his acting skill, saying that for his film to work, "it has to be played completely straight, and that's what he managed to do. There wasn't one moment when he broke out of character." He then breathlessly details Sagat's ability to cry on cue and "fuck like crazy," even when paired with an actor "who was out of it on drugs and couldn't get a hard-on."
Author Dennis Cooper, who plays opposite Sagat in his other film, Christophe Honor's Man at Bath, is equally impressed with the porn star's talent. He says Sagat is "very modest and kind of insecure in a funny way, but he's a very good actor." The film is a mostly improvised piece that follows the separate paths of a gay couple as they split. Sagat's character remains in the Parisian suburb Gennevilliers while his lover jets to New York City.
"I have a long scene with him," Cooper explains. "I'm some weird American art collector in the suburbs of Paris. He comes by for money and has sex with me. On this occasion, I've just had sex, so I'm not interested, but he gets up and starts doing these poses. I tell him he's kitsch. I look at him and see everything about him in one second."
Terry Richardson's photo shoot with Sagat proceeds by the numbers. Nine Inch Nails pumps over the PA. Sagat has already cycled through six looks. He backs up to the cyclorama in unlaced army boots, pulling his black briefs well below his tan line. An arsenal of inflatable machine guns lie stacked in the background while Sagat holds a grenade. Richardson peers at the scene over his owl-like black glasses, encouraging Sagat to pull the pin with his teeth. Actual direction is supplemented with high squeals when things are working. After weeks with Sagat outside his element, it's easy to lose track of what he does, but watching him do it here is spellbinding.
This same magnetism attracted fetish couture maestro David Mason Chlopecki to begin a symbiotic business relationship with the porn star. Chlopecki clothes him for shoots and films while Sagat appears in videos and ads for Slick It Up, the designer's raunchy line. During his recent New York City visit, Sagat stayed in Chlopecki's apartment and shared his bed. The host is quick to mention that they merely slept together -- "no touchie touchie," he clarifies. In fact, he's more interested in Sagat's behavior the next morning. "He was such a great houseguest," Chlopecki says. "He did the dishes every day and made the bed. And he made it beautifully. I would see him smooth out the pillows and I think, Oh, Fran'ois cares for things."
Then he volunteers another comment, which seems telling, if unrelated. "We're MTM trannies," Chlopecki says. "If you're on hormones, it doesn't matter if you're male taking female hormones or male taking male hormones. That's a tranny. It doesn't matter which direction you're going, you're on tranny highway."