Nathaniel, reporting from TIFF to assure you that the French still love la petite mort. Due to their graphic nature these reviews of Gaspar Noé's 3D explicit sex movie Love and the teens-gone-wild Bang Gang: a modern love story (which is about exactly what it sounds like it's about) are both hidden after the jump where naughty things must go... Think of the children!
LOVE (Gaspar Noe)
Already infamous before its Cannes premiere for its wet tongued, hard dick and cum splattered posters, this 3D sex movie is much more banal both visually and narratively than you'd expect. It was not unreasonable to expect more from the French provocateur who made Irreversible and Enter the Void. The banality of the story is surely, in part, intentional as Noé seems to be sending up dumb American xenophobia and entitlement via the Brando-lite mix of brutish misogyny and tender-feelings/thick-headedness of Murphy (newcomer Karl Glusman, totally game to be exploited). The dialogue is often atrocious but feels intentionally dumb.
The plot is as simple as simple can be. Boy meets girl and girl. One of the girls gets pregnant. The other girl boy obsesses over. That sort of thing. Noé is obviously poking fun at the audience (quite literally) willing to finance his gargantuan ego; the director actually takes his own dick out to thrust it at the camera in one jokey sequence where Murphy is trying not to think of his girlfriend's ex boyfriend's cock. Noé isn't the type to employ stunt doubles so while this is a dumb juvenile joke, it's a totally committed one! (Imagine Lars Von Trier's The Idiots, minus its brilliance, with Lars actually joining in on the orgy... and the orgy lasting for half the movie)
The middle hour of this way way too long drama (132 minutes. Why?) is fairly involving with eye popping color, an extremely raunchy sex club scene, and two memorable uses of 3D -- two of the only uses so there are more missed opportunities here than unplugged holes. The middle section also has character arcs of a sort within the sex scenes, which is really what sex movies should be going for the way musical sequences in musicals ought to be telling the story rather than stopping the action for a song & dance break. But aside from the middle chunk the other 72 minutes or so is exhausting including a miraculously unwatchable framing device. How it ever survived the final cut we shall never know; no explanation could suffice. C-
BANG GANG: A MODERN LOVE STORY (Eva Husson)
No foreplay. This well crafted French film begins with a flash forward to the Bang Gang club in full hedonistic summertime glory.
A young man wanders through a party where the occasional naked body or background sex interrupts the otherwise familiar party scene from any movie or indeed any party you've attended. Out the window we see a redhead streaking. The film runs back to just before the hedonism began.
Beautiful blonde George (Marilyn Lima) has impulse control problems. We first meet her stealing hamsters from her high school with her best friend Laetitia (Daisy Broom) and purposefully come-hither staring at Laetitia's childhood friend and neighbor, the shy Gabriel (Lorenzo Lefebre); she's always testing her sexual power. Soon George is hopping on top of the similarly promiscuous but remarkably callow Alex (Finnegan Oldfield), a rich boy who lives alone on his parent's giant estate. Laetitia isn't willing to do the same with his best friend Nikita (Fred Hotier) but, curiousity getting the best of her, she asks to watch. And thus it begins, the intertwined horny curious experimental partying. Alex & George's brief exhibitionist union has ripples --- no, scratch that, full waves. Soon dozens and dozens of kids from their school are joining in their hastily imagined "Bang Gang" club, which is basically an intermittent clothes-optional cameras welcome party at Alex's house.
The storyline may be nothing more than a naked French version of classic coming-of-age running-wild drama but what's special here is the filmmaking. Eva Husson, in her directorial debut no less, has a wonderfully acute sense of tactile images (often very sexy), colors and sound in combination -- particularly in the party sequences especially one in which we follow Alex out of his own party to clear his head. She also guides the actors into very naturalistic ensemble work. Their relationships feel real -- in fact, the movie doesn't feel acted at all. It's a real calling card film for this very promising new auteur.
For such a sexually charged movie the eventual climactic fallout (you can probably guess that rampant fucking of an entire high school class will have physical / emotional consequences) runs the risk of feeling like a conservative warning: don't experiment with your sexuality! What's more, Gabriel, the only teenager who seems to have a moral compass is the one whose parents are not at all invisible in his life. But Bang Gang is more modern and conditionally sex positive than that, pulling something beautiful from the wreckage, even as the teenagers are all forced to wise up. B+
Do you think explicit sex has a place in cinema or do you prefer that place to stay in its subgenre of "porn"?