Tag Archives: erotica

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story)

Bang Gang
Bang Gang

Format: Cinema

Seen at LFF 2015

Release date: 17 June 2016

DVD release date: 18 July 2016

Distributor: Metrodome

Director: Eva Husson

Writer: Eva Husson

Cast: Finnegan Oldfield, Marilyn Lima, Daisy Broom

Original title: Bang Gang (Une histoire d’amour moderne)

France 2015

98 mins

This intense French debut blows away the cobwebs with its depiction of love and sex in the internet age.

Bang Gang (A Modern Love Story): Interview with Eva Husson

Eva Husson’s vital debut joyously blows up simplistic judgements and adult anxieties with its candid portrayal of modern youth. In a seaside town in the south of France, the amorous entanglements between loner Laetitia, school beauty George and party boys Alex and Nikita, lead to the spontaneous creation of group sex parties with other teenagers. The full-frontal opening, a dreamy, fluid meandering among young bodies engaged in kissing, screwing, playing and drinking, drops us straight in the middle of one of their orgies. But what follows is not quite what might be expected from such a beginning: neither exploitative shocker nor critique of our pornified culture, the film is instead a complex, nuanced tale of love in the time of total sexual freedom.

That porn has an impact on young people’s views of sexuality is acknowledged; so is the pull of youthful hedonism. But the sex parties are prompted less by explicit YouTube videos than by a girl’s heartbreak. And the two most attractive and sexually active characters in the film, one male, one female, despite all the banging and the bravado, are ultimately looking for love in its different forms. These teenagers know everything there is to know about sexuality, but they are as maladroit and inexperienced as their elders when it comes to feelings and relationships. Countering media-inflated concerns about the effect of modern life on young people, Bang Gang affirms that the context may have changed, but growing up and negotiating your way through love and sexuality remains essentially the same: sexual freedom does not pervert love; nor does it make it easier, or more difficult, to find it.

Some of what has changed is for the better: the girls in the film are sexually liberated and are not punished for it. They openly like sex as much as the boys, and can be equally as unsentimental. Romantic clichés are sent up (the idea that the first time has to be special for a girl is comically subverted), and love can be found through the excesses of drugged sexual experimentation. And although love is ultimately what the film is about, libidinous desire is celebrated in itself, with the camera sensually capturing the warm beauty of naked bodies and the loveliness of physical intimacy.

The self-contained world of the teenagers, entirely cut off from the adult world, is perceptively, tangibly described. The importance of ambiguous, homoerotic friendships, the creation of a persona to hide emotional vulnerability, the wired energy that needs an outlet for release, are all keenly observed. But although the adults are largely depicted as either unaware or uncomprehending, Husson is interested in the teenagers’ relationships to their parents, who range from painfully absent to weightily present, and the way familial bonds inflect their behaviour. In this way, the search for romantic love that is at the heart of the story is intelligently inscribed in a larger nexus of emotional connections that includes friends and parents too. Fuelled by the acute intensity of lived experience, Bang Gang is an incisively frank, yet celebratory depiction of first love in the internet age.

Virginie Sélavy

This review is part of our LFF 2015 coverage.

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Director: David Wnendt

Writers: Claus Falkenberg, David Wnendt, Sabine Pochhammer

Based on the novel by: Charlotte Roche

Cast: Carla Juri, Christoph Letkowski, Marlen Kruse

Original title: Feuchtgebiete

Germany 2013

105 mins

This adaptation of Charlotte Roche’s notorious erotic-comic novel was hands down the funniest, punkiest film at this year’s Etrange Festival. Merrily life-affirming, with life in this case meaning spunk, shit and blood, it stars the spirited Carla Juri as a wonderfully individual 18-year-old girl with a particular affection for grime, sex and bodily secretions.

While she is being treated for an anal fissure in hospital, an occasion she is naïvely trying to use to reunite her divorced parents, she reminisces about various episodes of her past, from her dysfunctional childhood to her various experimentations with sex and drugs. Her candid lack of inhibitions both startles and fascinates the male nurse looking after her, Robin, and they begin to grow closer.

The film possesses the same charm as its heroine: the gross-out comedy – from the initial toilet scene (which recalls Trainspotting with a female twist), to the pizza masturbation or the menstrual blood oath – is irresistible, because it is all done with such wide-eyed innocence and childlike matter-of-factness. Nothing about the body repels Helen, and even though there shouldn’t be anything shocking about that, in our sanitized culture the presentation on screen of a female character’s slimy adventures was enough to trigger initially slightly stunned, then boisterous laughter in the Etrange Festival crowd.

Helen is a truly great creation, as embodied by Carla Juri. Playing the character with bold abandon and spontaneity, Juri is utterly convincing, naturally inhabiting the role. Endearingly full of contradictions, Helen is strong and vulnerable, dirty and innocent, tender and selfish, brave and irresponsible, poignantly poised between childhood and adulthood. But above all else she is irreducibly herself, and as such is immune to the pressures of social norms and rules, which makes spending 105 minutes in her company heartily invigorating.

The only minor disappointment is a simplistic rose-coloured ending that is at odds with, and somewhat undermines, the radical singularity of the character. Admittedly the film follows – and subverts – the conventions of romantic comedy, but Helen’s perspective on sex, love and femininity is so mordantly fresh that it is a shame she is forced to fit into a standard, predictable conclusion. This, however, does not detract from the overall effect of the film, which is a big blast of filthy energy.

This review is part of our Etrange Festival 2014 coverage.

Virginie Sélavy

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The Beast

The Beast
The Beast

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection

Format: Dual Format (DVD + Blu-ray)

Release date: 8 September 2014

Distributor: Arrow Academy

Director: Walerian Borowczyk

Writer: Walerian Borowczyk

Cast: Sirpa Lane, Lisbeth Hummel, Elisabeth Kaza

Original title: La Bête

France 1975

93 mins

Part fairy tale, part sex romp, part Buñuelian satire, Walerian Borowczyk’s The Beast is as much of a quirky oddity now as it was upon its original release in 1973. Disparaged by Borowczyk purists and mainstream reviewers both (the New York Times called it ‘unfit for man or beast’), the film was originally rejected for UK certification by the BBFC and not seen here in its uncut form until 2001, when it finally underwent something of a critical reappraisal.

So how does the once controversial film look now, nearly 40 years on from its production? Certainly still transgressive; perhaps less so for its over the top scenes of prosthetic bestiality than its cheerful disavowal of current social mores (it’s hard to imagine the character of the priapic black servant passing muster these days, for one). The sexual liaison between woman and beast (King Kong with bodily fluids!) that so outraged reviewers at the time seems largely comic now; not simply because of the relatively primitive make-up effects, but mainly due to the fact that Borowczyk seems to be in on the joke, even if most of the critics of the period weren’t.

But beyond the more censor-baiting material, The Beast is still a barbed, funny satire on sex, hypocrisy and repression. Certainly its jabs at the aristocracy and the priesthood, although perhaps less daring with age, are still relevant several decades on. And the director’s visual command and deft pacing keep the bawdy hijinks from ever descending into complete silliness, even if he never seems to be taking any of it particularly seriously. It’s impossible to claim The Beast as a particularly poetic or meaningful film; without a doubt there are Borowczyk works that go deeper. But it nevertheless remains a defiantly entertaining one, political correctness be damned.

Sean Hogan

The Streetwalker

The Margin
The Streetwalker

Director: Walerian Borowczyk

Writer: Walerian Borowczyk

Based on the novel by: André Pieyre de Mandiargues

Cast: Sylvia Kristel, Joe Dallesandro

Original title: La marge

Alternative title: The Margin

France 1976

88 mins

I think it was Lacan who asked the question: if we’re always thinking about sex when we’re doing other things – eating bananas, driving fast cars, learning French – what are we thinking about when we’re actually having sex? When Sylvia Kristel’s streetwalker Diana has sex in Walerian Borowczyk’s 1976 film The Streetwalker (La marge), it’s so obvious as to almost be ludicrous. She stares at the money that she has clutched in her hand with such intensity as to leave no doubt, even as her John, Sigimond (the iconic Joe Dallesandro) thrusts intently away. Sex is a transaction, a way of earning money. Sigimond is a rich vineyard owner with a young family visiting Paris for business. He is a romantic. He is not lonely and Borowczyk shows his home life to be sexually satisfying, idyllic even. He’s prone to mutter mid-coital silliness such as ‘You are the gift and the giver’. And so his dalliance and experimentation while away on his ‘business trip’ has nothing to do with filling a vacuum. He just wants to have some sex. When he is having sex – to answer Lacan’s question and in opposition to Diana – he is thinking about the sex he is having. The film will trace his increasing distraction and the tragic price to be paid for such guileless romance, even as Diana becomes more aware of sex as something other than a way of earning money, which in itself proves a painful reawakening.

Released two years after Kristel achieved notoriety and worldwide fame as Emmanuelle, the film stands as a testament to her genuine ability as an actress, and it is cited by the actress as her favourite role. Her fragility – the gnawing anxiety that she is already being superseded by younger models of her former self – and her growing yearning for something other than monetary gain is played out in a brilliant and nuanced performance. With the shifting of porn into the mainstream via the internet and the proliferation of sexposition in TV drama, the film doesn’t even seem particularly pornographic today, but on release it was received as another attempt to gain art-house respectability for sex films. Kristel’s fame possibly damaged the film as it was remarketed in some regions as Emmanuelle ’77. However, despite the movie star beauty of the prostitutes, Borowczyk never celebrates sex unambiguously, juxtaposing it with the banal. A beautifully shot strip show takes place as a crate of booze is delivered to the bar by a working stiff – sign here, keep a copy – and Diana will retire to the same backroom for a quick delivery of her own. The prostitutes are bitchy and Diana herself is dishonest and angry. Her pimp is a lazy dressing-gown-clad psychopath who does target practice with his pistol in his hotel room. But it is not just the sex that has to contend with the banal, but tragedy too when Sigimond reads a terrible letter from home while gazing over the most unromantic Parisian view of a huge building site.

Camera Obscura: The Walerian Borowczyk Collection is released by Arrow Academy on 8 September 2014. This unique limited edition box set (Dual Format DVD + Blu-ray) includes the short films, The Theatre of Mr and Mrs Kabal, Goto, l’île d’amour, Blanche, The Beast and Immoral Tales – it does not contain The Streetwalker.

With a score from some giants of 1970s music, a stunning extended use of Pink Floyd’s ‘Shine on You Crazy Diamond’ and some fantastic cinematography by long-time collaborator Bernard Daillencourt, the film is a beautiful melancholic meditation on sex in a dirty, dirty world.

John Bleasdale

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