Éva Husson’s Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) finds a sweet romance in a tale of teenagers these days and their orgies. The film opens on a pubescents-gone-wild party in a small-town mansion in France. The camera pans around the room to reveal that couples are having sex in the open, people are sitting around naked, drugs are being done, and it’s total madness. We’re watching a “Bang Gang” event unfold — and yes, that’s what the kids actually call it in the film.
As designed to shock as Larry Clark’s Kids, Bang Gang features the same kind of horrifying graphic imagery, though more artfully shot. At least writer-director Husson gives reasonable motivation for why the sex party starts in Bang Gang. A rivalry between two female friends is sparked by the despicable Alex (Finnegan Oldfield), who uses the more conventionally desirable George (Marilyn Lima) to work his way to the one he actually likes, Laetitia (Daisy Broom). George retaliates against what she sees as Laetitia’s betrayal by starting an all-sex truth-or-dare game, minus the confessions, which becomes a local ritual of meaningless and careless sex: George’s attempt at taking control of the situation.
Meanwhile, she pines after Laetitia’s boy-next-door Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefèbre) who is occupied caring for his wheelchair-bound father. Sensing George’s interest in Gabriel, Laetitia toys with him by inviting him to one of the legendary “Bang Gang” events. There, this stranger to orgies and sex finds tenderness with George, and the modern love story is born. Husson is hardly the first to remark that that millennials often suffer from commitment-phobia, which can lead to this kind of careless behaviour. As in Kids, you can bet the film will become a cautionary tale. It can’t end without an abortion and a bit of syph.
But Bang Gang doesn’t contribute much to the indictment Clark started twenty years ago. Why, for example, is Alex such an object of desire? He seems a careless lover and a cruel one, at that. Why would the otherwise sensible Laetitia only inquire about why they’re not using a condom after intercourse has begun? If competition and jealousy is what fuels the girls’ actions, why does Husson drop the thread of George and Laetitia’s friendship by the third act? Why does Husson choose to focus instead on the sweet but intellectually vacant relationship between George and Gabriel? Perhaps most frustrating of all is how nobody seems to talk about anything interesting. If the Bang Gang springs from loneliness and insecurity, why don’t we see moments of vulnerability between any of the characters?
Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story) had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in its inaugural Platform section, a juried competition. Its international sales agent is Films Distribution. It has not yet been picked up for North American distribution. The film will also screen at the London Film Festival this month.