×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto Film Review: ‘Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)’

This sexy debut by AFI-trained French director Eva Husson owes a debt to such controversial adolescent group portraits as 'The Virgin Suicides' and 'Kids.'

With:
Finnegan Oldfield, Daisy Broom, Fred Hotier, Lorenzo Lefebvre, Marilyn Lima.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3838728/

Set amid a recent(ish) French heatwave, likely 2003, Eva Husson’s steamy “Bang Gang” is the story of a girl named George who sincerely believes she has invented the concept of the swingers party, as told by a young director who acquits herself as if Larry Clark, Gus Van Sant and a coupla Coppola gals haven’t already made the same movie. That’s not to say that Husson brings nothing new to the mix, although her sun-kissed, pastel-hued collage of half-naked adolescents cavorting free from their Biarritz parents’ ambivalent eyes feels less shocking than it does personal. While the skin factor alone should ensure prurient curiosity among festival and VOD auds, it’s more interesting to speculate how much of herself Husson is exposing in this supposedly fact-based, clearly ironic “modern day love story” — and to fantasize what this fearless talent might do next.

Originally tipped as a possible Cannes selection, “Bang Gang” instead premieres in Toronto’s new competitive Platform strand, trading the likely dismissal of a blase Croisette crowd for what are sure to be more receptive reactions, given Toronto’s long-standing rep as a fest where watching naked French teens swap sexual favors never goes out of style. (The French themselves aren’t so easily seduced, having just witnessed Helene Zimmer’s “Being 14” push those same buttons, albeit not so explicitly, with a far-younger ensemble.)

The novelty with “Bang Gang” — which is dedicated to a long list of male filmmakers, with particular thanks to “Men who love strong women. Thanks for helping me become one” — is the extent to which Husson’s take may be considered “feminist.” D.p. (and fellow AFI grad) Mattias Troelstrup’s camera ogles the onscreen boys and girls alike, visually framing this memory through the shifting vantage of two teenage girls, timid Laetitia (Daisy Broom) and her more aggressively sex-hungry best friend George (Marilyn Lima), while privileging the group’s worst offender, Alex (Finnegan Oldfield, recently seen in Thomas Bidegain’s “Les Cowboys”), with a “The Virgin Suicides”-style voiceover that sounds as if it was written and added at a very late stage.

One indolent afternoon, the two girls find themselves hanging out by Alex’s pool. He’s a weaselly young man whose face seems permanently twisted into a distrustful scowl, but his seductive skills seem downright classy compared to red-headed pal Nikita (Fred Hotier), who strips down immediately, then begs Laetitia to help keep him warm. Alex’s strategy is to get George alone and then insult her best friend, claiming to find George far more desirable — a ruse she falls for almost instantly (Alex will try the opposite line on Laetitia later, with equivalent success).

For the moment, however, audiences raised on the chastity-thumping morality of American horror movies (not that this is one, far from it, but that’s the genre where such pretty young things most consistently face consequences for their lusty slip-ups) will peg George as the slutty one and Laetitia as the innocent. Such labels don’t apply for long once the big “bang gang” explosion occurs, however.

Shocked that Alex doesn’t return her phone calls or text messages after their hook-up, George comes up with a scheme designed to make him jealous: Though all she really wants is Alex to herself, George suggests to a group of classmates gathered in his living room that they raise the stakes on their lame games of “Spin the Bottle” and “Truth or Dare” and try a version that’s nothing but dares. In short order, this extracurricular hang-out session has turned into a group hook-up — one that’s so popular with all who participated that the other kids at school want in, flocking to Alex’s house anytime a kick-off text message (“it’s now or never!” they claim) goes ’round.

This is precisely the fantasy Abercrombie & Fitch has been selling all these years, as  “Bang Gang” recreates the sort of predominately white, ambisexual summertime orgies that filled its early-2000s catalogs, complete with carefree skinny dipping and drunk, naked teens huddled around the foosball table. Not everyone in George’s class wants in on the fun, however, and the movie holds a special regard for Laetitia’s shy next door neighbor, Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefebvre), an awkward, amateur electronic-music mixer (the film’s entrancing soundtrack, by L.A.-based snyth-pop siren White Sea, is one of those hip touches that should get Husson more work, likely directing musicvideos or fashion campaigns). While his classmates bang-gang, Gabriel lets off steam in his own way, seeking out local “beat parties” where he can dance out his frustrations.

Gabriel is one of a couple characters who, without explanation, turn and gaze directly into the camera at a certain point, and one suspects that Husson originally tried this approach with others as well, though the film bears the traces of having been heavily reworked in editing. While the film’s fluid, free-roaming perspective gives things a dreamy feel, as if these adolescent love-ins (which Husson semi-explicitly teases from the film’s flash-forward first scene) all took place in some alcohol- and ecstasy-clouded reverie, the lack of a single clear character with whom to identify ultimately proves problematic.

Though Husson is predictably obliged to affix a cautionary scarlet letter on her teen libertines, as the school’s entire graduating class is subjected to mandatory syphilis testing in a scene that recalls Clark’s “Kids,” her judgment isn’t targeted so much at George, who started it all, but Alex, whom George holds responsible. Rather than getting back at this one boy in particular, a more effective cut of the film would put us inside the various characters’ heads, giving us the chance to identify with both their selfish impulses and the consequences of such teenage egotism (the way Roger Avary’s “The Rules of Attraction” did at roughly the time the film is set), whereas this one shifts focus as casually as its characters swap partners.

Toronto Film Review: 'Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)'

Reviewed at Unifrance screening room, Paris, Aug. 2015. (In Toronto Film Festival — competing.) Running time: 98 MIN. (Original title: “Bang Gang (une histoire d’amour moderne)”)

Production: (France) An Ad Vitam (in France) release of a Full House, a label of Maneki Films and Borsalino Prods. production, presented in association with b Media 2012, B Media Developpement, Backup Media, with the participation of Canal Plus, Ocs, CNC, with the support of Region Aquitaine, Department Pyrenees Atlantiques, Procirep, Palatine Etoile 10 Developpement, in collaboration with Agency ECLA/Commission du Film Aquitaine. (International sales: Films Distribution, Paris.) Produced by Didar Domehri, Laurent Baudens, Gael Nouaille.

Crew: Directed, written by Eva Husson. Camera (color, widescreen), Mattias Troelstrup; editor, Emilie Orsini; music, White Sea; production designer, David Bersanetti; costume designer, Julie Brones; sound, Olivere Le Vacon; assistant director, Sophie Davin; casting, Bahijja El Amrani.

With: Finnegan Oldfield, Daisy Broom, Fred Hotier, Lorenzo Lefebvre, Marilyn Lima.

More Film

  • Matthew McConaughey White Boy Rick

    STX Buys Matthew McConaughey's Crime Drama 'Bush' for U.S.

    STXfilms has picked up U.S. rights to Matthew McConaughey’s British crime drama “Bush,” with Guy Ritchie directing and producing, for $7 million. The project, formerly known as “Toff Guys,” also stars Hugh Grant, Colin Farrell, Charlie Hunnam, Henry Golding, and Michelle Dockery. The deal was in the works in Berlin and has just been completed. [...]

  • Four Seasons LA Oscar Parties

    Oscar-Inspired Festivities That Anyone Can Attend

    Whether you make it to the Dolby or not, you can still celebrate Oscar’s big week with these awards-themed menu items, viewing events and treats. If you can’t win an award, you can eat one. Compartes designed a seven-inch, 24-karat gold-dusted statue made of decadent dark chocolate ($34.95), while confectioner Valerie Gordon offers a package [...]

  • The Woolsy fire burns a home

    Malibu Fire Victims Vow to Rebuild as Real Estate Prices Hold

    Malibu’s reputation as paradise took a beating in 2018. More than 450 homes were destroyed in the city limits during November’s Woolsey Fire, as were 750 or so more residences in the surrounding county. Heaviest hit was the region’s western edge. “Although the fire has shaken the community, people are reenergized and those who lost [...]

  • Ready Player One

    'Ready Player One’ Juxtaposes Real, Virtual Via VFX From Three Shops

    Director Steven Spielberg set an ambitious goal for himself and his “Ready Player One” VFX team: weaving viewers in and out of a virtual world within the storytelling parameters of a traditional film. The movie, released by Warner Bros. in March, is one of five up for a visual effects Oscar this year. To adapt Ernest [...]

  • Ludwig Göransson Talks 'Black Panther,' Childish

    Composer Ludwig Göransson on 'Black Panther' Music, Childish Gambino and Danny Elfman

    Ludwig Göransson is fairly new to the music-for-screens game, but it surprised no one when his score for the billion-dollar “Black Panther” — a deft swirl of blockbuster orchestra, hip-hop and authentic Africana — prompted his first Oscar nomination (and three Grammys on Feb. 10). The Swedish composer spoke to Variety in the midst of [...]

  • Awards Season Red Carpet jewelry

    A Look at Awards Show Jewelry: Bolder and Brighter

    After last year’s Golden Globes “blackout” to support women’s equality and a more muted awards season, brighter fashion and bolder jewelry are back on the scene. From stacks of bracelets to glitzy hair clips all in millions of dollars in diamonds, here’s how this year’s contenders have been upping their jewelry game. Diamond Drop Necklaces [...]

  • Rick Caruso

    How Rick Caruso's Vision and Philanthropy Are Shaping L.A.

    Rick Caruso says he builds for the next 100 years. The Westside Los Angeles-based real estate developer and billionaire is the force behind the Grove, the Americana at Brand, the Commons at Calabasas, Palisades Village and the recently opened Rosewood Miramar Beach resort in Montecito. He is being honored by Variety with the Power of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content