Metro Weekly

Film Review: Revisit ’80s gay culture with erotica classic “Equation to an Unknown”

Pioneering porn streamer unearths another long-lost gem of '80s erotica, French classic "Equation to an Unknown."

Equation to an Unknown
Equation to an Unknown

Offering a real-life glimpse of gay culture, the recently restored French erotica classic Equation to an Unknown (★★★☆☆), originally released in 1980, winds a wild path through a young hero’s love life.

Long lost to the vestiges of memory, the film, directed by Francis Savel under his nom-de-porn Dietrich de Velsa, was rediscovered by French filmmaker Yann Gonzalez (Knife + Heart), who commissioned a new print from the original camera negative, resulting in this gorgeous video transfer, now available for streaming on

Dark-haired looker Gianfranco Longhi stars as a brooding, enigmatic motorcyclist who speeds around his French industrial town seeking, or just stumbling upon, scenes of sexual pleasure. He peeps in on a soccer squad loosening up in the locker room after a match, then, of course, joins the huddle.

He seduces a construction worker, a mechanic, and another biker and his boyfriend, living out his fantasies as the film tallies just about every macho type a virile young man might lust for in the age of the Village People. That’s not to say he happens upon any hot, Black cops, but the biker meets an array of willing partners, and almost always leaves them wanting more.

Shot through with a Tom of Finland sensibility, as portrayed by a cast of mop-haired dudes with blue-collar builds, the movie strives for a sense of naturalism outside the sex scenes. Dialogue is minimal, as is the acting, which, along with the moody score, suffices to convey the underlying story of the biker’s vague melancholy.

He dreams, he rides, he fucks, but for what is he searching? “I wish I could love only you,” he whispers to would-be lover François, before plunging into the orgy of his dreams. Lusting for life, or for la petite mort, he never stops riding.

The movie ends on two carefree guys zipping on a bicycle through the streets, like it’s Summer of 85. If and when some enterprising cineaste should compile the many film scenes, from Wild Reeds to Call Me By Your Name, featuring lovestruck boys tooling around European towns on bikes, cycles, and scooters, their bodies pressed together hopefully, they could do worse than to start right here.

Equation to an Unknown is available for streaming at

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