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New Release Review - BANG GANG (A MODERN LOVE STORY)

A group of bored teens establish an orgy society.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Eva Husson

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



Just as it seems Bang Gang is celebrating sexuality, the film takes a regressive, conservative turn in its final act. Were it not for the nudity, you could imagine Husson's film being shown in Catholic run schools - "And that's why you should never, ever have sex before marriage," a priest might remark to his class as he ejects the DVD.



Sex and European cinema have long been, er...bedfellows. The post-fascist societies of Spain, Germany and Italy gave us a raft of explicit sex comedies in the 1970s, while the Nordic nations have always been pretty matter of fact about sex and nudity, not finding it enough of a taboo to laugh at. France however continues a schoolboy obsession with the human body and its procreative functions to this day, and at this point it all feels a little cynical. Every year we get a number of Gallic films whose chief marketing pitch seems to be the level of sex - simulated (Blue is the Warmest Color, Jeune & Jolie) or unsimulated (Love, Stranger by the Lake) - on display. Would any of these films have received a fraction of the international attention granted them without a proliferation of boobs, butts and bollocks?


The latest 'controversial' French drama is writer-director Eva Husson's Bang Gang. The controversy comes not from its explicitness (there's not much more flesh on display here than you might find in an American Pie sequel), but from its protagonists being still at school teens. Don't worry, you won't be added to any lists for buying a ticket; this isn't a David Hamilton production, all the actors are in their twenties.

Sullen teen Alex (the wonderfully monikered Finnegan Oldfield) has his plush family villa all to himself for the summer, and uses this freedom to bed as many high school girls as possible. When he sleeps with George (Marilyn Lima), she expects it to develop into a relationship, something Alex has no interest in. When Alex takes the virginity of her best friend, Laetitia (Daisy Broom; where do they get these names?), Alex attempts to make him jealous by initiating a game of 'dare' that evolves into a group sex session. Far from disturbed, Alex sees this as an opportunity to spread his seed even further, and initiates a 'Bang Gang' society, holding regular teen orgies at his villa.


What's most successful about Bang Gang is the performances of its two central actresses. Lima has a classic Gallic look, part Bardot, part Vanessa Paradis, while Broom on the other hand resembles a sister of Saoirse Ronan. The two characters swap roles midway through, with Lima's George beginning as a confident femme-stud working her way through everything in jeans while Broom's virginal Laetitia comes out of her retiring shell upon having her cherry popped and embraces this new world of physical delights. Both young stars are sublime, their performances no doubt enlivened by working under a female director with some real world knowledge of such matters.


Just as it seems Bang Gang is celebrating sexuality, the film takes a regressive, conservative turn in its final act, punishing its female leads for their physical emancipation in a disappointingly anti-feminist manner as they retreat to the safety of male arms. Were it not for the nudity, you could imagine Husson's film being shown in Catholic run schools - "And that's why you should never, ever have sex before marriage," a priest might remark to his class as he ejects the DVD. A late subplot sees one of the female leads 'slut-shamed', by the film's supporting characters, but also by the film itself. The subtitle 'A Modern Love Story' is a curious one, as the behaviour exhibited and critiqued in the film was far more popular and accepted in the pre-AIDS '60s and '70s. The only contemporary element is the presence of cameras turning private pleasure into public humiliation, and ultimately Husson's lens is equally guilty of taking part in such judgemental behaviour.

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