Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 20, 2016 9:39 am 
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There'll always be young. . . sex

Eva Husson's sun-drenched first feature focused on French summer teenage sex orgies isn't long on plot but is not without it. The setup is that all we're watching is an episode remembered by a shy girl called Laetitia (Daisy Broom)and her more aggressive bleach-blonde friend George (Marilyn Lima). Laetitia is most interested in Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefèbvre), a poetic-looking music-mix guy who isn't into crowds. George wants to keep the attention of Alex (Finnegan Oldfield, a vivid young actor who shone in Thomas Bidegain's Les Cowboys), and so she encourages the setup of organized group sex gatherings. This leads to what a blurb calls "a pulsating, slow-motion bacchanal pitched somewhere between the world of Spring Breakers and that of Larry Clark." There are moments when Alex and his almost-twin best mate Nikita (Fred Hotier) seem like the serial deflowerer in Larry Clark's Kids. Gus Van Sant and Sofia Coppola's Virgin Suicides have also been mentioned. Perhaps surprisingly, Husson has said she was obsessed with Wong Kar-wai while making the film. A truly key element is the "sun drenched" cinematography of the film's dp, Dane Mattias Troelstrup, like Husson a graduate of AFI in Los Angeles, which makes lovely use of the time and setting of the action, summer on the French Riviera, specifically Biarritz. And none of this would work without a team of in-shape and willing young people fully prepared to disrobe and engage in (presumably simulated) group sex, long sunlit living room and bedroom parties of glimpsed, sometimes slo-mo bodies.

The film, which bypassed Cannes and turned up at the putatively more friendly venue of Toronto, got mixed reviews upon its French theatrical release, some quite good, some bad, leading to a poor AlloCiné critics rating of 2.9. But Les Inrocks and Cahiers, always touchstones, liked it pretty well. Their Jean-Philippe Tessé wrote: "The film finds its way , chugging along , because it doesn't just put its concept on the table ( a pitch , a look), but always seeks to question it." Les Inrocks' critic Serge Kaganski wrote what AlloCiné considered the most enthusiastic review. He praised the young actors, saying Finnegan Oldfield (clearly a "Jeune Espoir Masculin" of the moment) "cuts like a rasor." He called Marilyn Lima "a little Bardot, and said Daisy Broom has an "eye-teasing sexiness," and that Lorenzo Lefebvre "is full of dark beauty." Writing from a summer Paris screening, Variety's Guy Debruge acknowledged Husson's proceeds as if she's unaware Sofia Coppola and Larry Clark and Gus van Sant have already "made the same movie" but adds, "That’s not to say that Husson brings nothing new to the mix."

Let's try to say what's new in the mix. First of all perhaps how social and well-off this suburban French Riviera group is; the delicate opening on a sylvan scene with birds chirping. The way orgies are like a party, and though people are doing drugs and drinking, they show little ill effect. Most of it's at the house of Alex (Oldfield), whose mother is away in Morocco, and his relationship with her is friendly and relaxed. He takes calls from her from time to time and always says he misses her and that all is quiet, and well. But this being now, no kid is without his or her iPhone, "Bang Gang" group invites are sent out by email, you can have a video of your first time, and their doings turn up soon on social media, with upsetting results at school later. There's also a hamster rescued from the school lab and running news stories about train derailments. At the end, when the summertime orgies are over, the film returns to some of the main characters and their voiceovers provide introspective analysis. True, Peter Debruge in his Toronto Variety review comments that the film's "Virgin Suicides-style voiceover" "sounds as if it was written and added at a very late stage," which is to say that while this movie has charm and panache, it's not without a thrown-together quality. Perhaps that's appropriate.

Bang Gang: A Modern Love Story/Bang Gang: Histoire d'amour moderne, 98 mins., debuted in the Festival du Film Francophone d'Angoulême 26 Aug. 2015, also showed at Toronto, London, Gothenberg, Rotterdam. French theatrical release was 13 Jan. 2016. Coming to US cinemas as A Samuel Goldwyn Films release. Screened for this review in the FSLC-UniFrance Rendez-Vous 2015 edition, Feb. 2016.

Toronto film brochure.

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