Review: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
- BERLINALE 2021: Romanian director Radu Jude holds a mirror up to the audience – and the audience might not like what they see
One of those films that either make a jury swoon or get completely ignored by it, Radu Jude’s more than aptly (including the loony part) titled Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn [+see also:
interview: Radu Jude
film profile] revisits some of the director’s main themes, packing them into a feature that switches with great gusto from porn to philosophical collage and a chorus of idiots. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn may or may not win something big in competition at the Berlinale, but it is definitely a must-see, as there are few features more stimulating or more able to emulate the craziness the entire world has been facing during the pandemic.
We start with a fairly explicit sex scene, as middle-school teacher Emilia (Katia Pascariu) is in bed with husband Eugen (porn actor Ştefan Steel) doing, well, pretty much what anyone who enjoys sex would do in bed. Marius Panduru’s camera doesn’t shy away, and we would say that the audience won’t avert their eyes from the screen either, although it is rare to see something so graphic, both in terms of the imagery and the lines in Jude’s screenplay. After this sweaty preamble, we see Emilia frantically walking the noisy streets of Bucharest, and we slowly learn (if we hadn’t read the synopsis) that the video taped by Eugen in bed has leaked onto the internet, threatening Emilia’s position in her school.
Jude divides his film into several parts, putting the viewers in Emilia’s shoes and then, in the final part, practically forcing them to become jurors in an obscene tribunal, when dozens of parents, scandalised by watching Emilia’s transgressions online, flock to the school to decide whether she deserves to continue teaching their children. Jude composes a chorus of annoyances, from the busy streets of Bucharest, where people seem to slowly be losing their minds (probably) because of the pandemic, to this final scene where we are reminded very efficiently that “hell is other people” and that we cannot, no matter what we do, escape their judgemental gaze...
By no means is Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn a film the audience will like, but it is definitely a movie the audience should see. Jude juggles so many themes, from the carefully redacted existence of the Facebook generation to preconceptions about how a film should look, always keeping viewers on their toes and occasionally hitting them over the head with some totally loony-like decisions. The director nurtures his love for uncinematic choices (characters reading long quotes from various writers out loud) as well as using his craft to comment on our hypocrisy, racism and, well, sheer stupidity.
The main thing the audience should truly embrace about Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is the dare it confronts us with: to ponder honestly our own choices and decide whether, knowingly or unconsciously, we prefer to pay attention only to what we consider appealing in our lives. Appealing to others, that is. Saints online (sex tapes notwithstanding) and needy, neurotic, depressive devils in our intimacy, we should fill the abyss between these two personae, and maybe – only maybe – then will we reach absolution.
Well, good luck banging on that door, as Jude might say.
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