Review: Rediscovered French Gay Classic 'Equation to an Unknown' a Dive into Erotic Dreams

by Kilian Melloy

EDGE Staff Reporter

Thursday June 17, 2021

'Equation to an Unknown'
'Equation to an Unknown'  (

Dietrich de Velsa's fanciful and frolicksome 1980 film "Equation to an Unknown" has been rediscovered. Now available at in a 2K scan prepared from a new answer print, the film couldn't look better as it delves into the dreams and fantasies of an adventurously-minded young man played by Gianfranco Longhi.

The only film made by Dietrich de Velsa — otherwise known as painter and cabaret artistic director Ferancis Savel (a.k.a. Frantz Salieri) — "Equation to an Unknown" is touted as "the best French gay adult film ever made." It's certainly one of the most fun-loving; starting with a soccer match, the film offers the word "Shoot!" as its first line of dialogue.

The camera follows the lads into the showers, where homoerotic horseplay ensues. Meantime, a player with an injured leg receives a rubdown from a concerned teammate. Things progress from there, and graphically so, under the gaze of an observer (Longhi), who watches from a window.

The sight sparks a suite of daydreams — and nocturnal ones, too — in which Longhi's character imagines himself becoming part of the rubdown, and of other multi-participant scenarios: A pal called Francois wakes him up and admires his morning wood, opening the way to some friendly fooling around; a series of men, including Longhi's character, avail themselves to the services of a fellow in a cafe restroom; a motorcycle jaunt brings him together with a service station attendant he instructs to "fill me up," a flirtatious directive that leads to a ride (in more then one sense) for the attendant. Their two-wheeling adventures last throughout the night and involve a foursome in a grimy work shack. As a new day dawns, a valedictory roadside blowjob caps the evening's goings on, and the young man heads home... only to find Francois, his true love, has come back for more and is waiting for him.

Are all of these hookups part of the same long dream? Are reality and fantasy colliding? Does it matter? The most dreamlike sequence begins as the guys from the cast show up in the young man's apartment, taking their places along a white wall like suspects in a lineup before tossing off their clothes and surrounding his bed. He lies there as though on an altar, awaiting sacrifice, sacrament, or a good old-fashioned orgy, which does indeed erupt, to the looping sounds of a distant waking world: Train whistles, laughter, rippling water.

As it did with the two restored Arthur J. Bressan Jr. films it recently made available — "Passing Strangers" from 1974 and "Forbidden Letters" from 1979 — has curated an adult film that brings something more than mere graphic sexuality to its mature themes. Desire courses through "Equation to an Unknown," but (again, like a dream) ultimate fulfillment seems always in retreat, while the repeated motif of older men being shut out of the erotic action reflects an anxiety of time passing, attractiveness waning, and the vital force of sexuality drying up. Even so, the film has a happy ending, a sun-drenched bike ride shared by two. Is it another dream, or is it a dream come true? Decide for yourself.

"Equation to an Unknown" is streaming now at

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Associate Arts Editor and Staff Contributor. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.