Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)

When Larry Clark came into the scene more than twenty years ago now with his ground-breaking and incendiary “Kids,” you could feel the shockwaves going down your system as you saw the most provocative depiction of teenage sexuality imaginable on screen at the time. Clark, not one to be tamed down, continued his onslaught of shockingly graphic content with his ensuing films “Bully” and “Ken Park. All of this to say that the “shock movement” that Clark started with “Kids,” isn’t all that shocking anymore. We’ve learned to accept teenage sexuality as a normal thing; maybe the way Clark depicted it wasn’t and still isn’t the “norm,” but, if anything, we’ve become numb to watching teenagers get down and dirty onscreen and off.
All of this leads me to “Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story),” which, if released say 20 years ago, might have spurned shockwaves throughout the film community, but since it’s 2016, we might just shrug it off as if it were nothing more than another sexually charged teenage drama. This is, of course, a major disservice to French director Eva Husson’s drama, which does try to give a fresh new spin to the genre by not only incorporating new shock tactics, but actually investing real emotional charge into the surroundings.
Based on true events that happened in a Paris suburb, the film tells the tale of 16-year-old high schoolers who, taking advantage of a friend’s parents being out of town, organize orgies in a secret group they dub “the Bang Gang club”. It all starts with an innocent game of spin the bottle which quickly gets out of control, and their raging hormones start acting up. Impromptu orgies occur, but as with all sexual activity, some emotional undercurrents can sometimes sneak in. There’s a Lothario (Finnegan) who uses the orgy to his advantage to play around with the affection of two girls who mostly just want the attention. And then there is the soft-spoken musician who lusts for the girl of his dreams, but wants her for more than just an evening of ménage-a-six.
Although these characters are mere background for the main events, the orgies, Husson refuses to have any real focus on character until the very last third of the story. The film is an indelibly forceful look at teenagers trying to find themselves in an almost numbing world. They don’t seem to care about the consequences of their actions; they just want to feel something physical by going skin to skin with as many “friends” as possible. Yet, as with all stories about sexually explicit content, it all comes down to that one connection you make amidst all the chaos, rather than the actual sex.
There is the inevitable downfall that comes with many of these kinds of tales, but with this being a 2016 film, it refreshingly deals with how social media can be the ultimate affecting depressor for young millennials. Imagine Larry Clark’s teenagers with a Facebook account, Twitter, or a cell phone. Armed and ready to spread the nitty gritty dirt.

There is a great deal of nudity in Husson’s film, but it’s all purposely done to be not very erotic. The editing is akin to a music video, but for a feature film debut, Husson has brought out something interesting and grounded. She’s made a Larry Clark film for the millennial generation without some of the bland tropes that have dodged some of his more recent films. I find it’s better than Clark’s movies, more subtle in fact, and can sometimes encompass a world of emotions in a single frame. It truly is a modern love story showing us how sexually liberated today’s generation is and how misguided their attempts at finding love can be. [B]