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Radu Jude Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn Review

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Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn | Review

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn | Review

Stand & Deliver: Jude Doubles Up on the Viral in Kangaroo Court

Radu Jude Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn ReviewLeave it to Radu Jude to take a sad song and make it better, an auteur who also cares little about if he goes down in history as a political shit-stirrer. His latest concoction continues his gleeful experimentation with experimental reenactments, this time with a makeshift tribunal in the zanily titled Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn.

If his recent offerings have been troubling recuperations of Ceausescu’s iron grip and rippling terrors torn from Romania’s history books, Jude at last returns to the immediacy of the present in a project conceived prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and gracefully modified to accommodate the global scourge as one of several tenuous facets of a world driven into madness. The New Romanian Wave alum divorces himself from the shackles of his peers to sift through the tenuous façade of the present, a ‘fluid’ environment crumbling rapidly beneath the corrosive elements of an actual viral pandemic and the serpentine invasiveness of social media.

A sex video goes viral. Unfortunately, despite donning a masquerade ball styled mask, Emi (Katia Pascariu, one of the nuns from Puiu’s Beyond the Hills) is identified and her employment as a teacher is compromised when a throng of angry parents are made aware of the transgression. However, Emi didn’t post the video, and as she makes futile attempts to have it removed for online consumption, a conference with the parents of the student body is organized.

With his most successful offerings detailing past victimizations, whether it be a black and white historical examination of the Romany gypsies in Aferim! (2015), a modern reenactment of the 1941 Odessa Massacre in his Crystal Globe winner I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018) or the bamboozled graffiti-prone teen of Uppercase Print (2020), Jude seemed fixated on the past. In a modern post-Socialist Romania, Jude formulates a tribunal meant to castigate a righteous, progressive female teacher who dares to defy her critics. Like other Jude titles, this is ostensibly a black comedy, but marrying the realities of the immediate present with the continually troubling rhetoric of witch-hunt prone nationalism allows for Bad Luck Banging to feel incredibly stark and frustrating. A modern satire it may be, but there’s no real room to breathe, at least not enough for one’s lungs to employ laughter.

Perhaps the funniest (or at least mirthful) bit is the opening segment, the private sex video of a masked Emi, warding off her husband who interrupts from the other room as she’s involved in an uninhibited tryst with a younger lover—amateur porn set to the stylings of Lili Marleen. Immediately, this afternoon delight becomes the stuff of nightmare as someone who wasn’t Emi posted the video on Pornhub and she’s immediately recognized by students and colleagues, who circulate the video. Outraged parents demand a conference to vote on her ability to remain in her current position despite a pandemic raging, and a socially distanced outdoor meeting devolves into a barely contained disparagement of her reputation. As Emi, Katia Pascariu characterizes a human primed to make everyone and everything angry. As she toggles around the city in anticipation of her late afternoon denouement, Jude begins his triptych with one of the most bluntly fashioned portraits of life as we know it during the pandemic. The grocery store, the sidewalks, and public transportation are stages for people to act outrageously.

Politeness and decorum are nowhere to be found, and Jude brings his audience’s blood pressure beyond the boiling point by the time we get to Emi’s fateful hour. Only a brief reprieve in a bookstore, where Emi picks up a copy of Spoon River Anthology, the 1915 a tapestry poem by Edgar Lee Masters, from a flirty bookseller. The establishment provides an unexpected shelter from the angry storm outside (and a reference for Jude’s narrative intentions, perhaps).

The second part of Jude’s triptych is a montage of visuals which provide a pseudo-cultural key to certain elements, the most meaningful being a beautiful interpretation of the Perseus/Medusa saga from Greek mythology. Looking directly at Medusa turns her audience to stone, which required her decapitation by Perseus using Athena’s shield, reflecting an image of the Gorgon. Jude equates cinema as the modern equivalent of this apparatus, for only through a reflection of life’s horrors are we able to contemplate the defeat of them.

By the time we get to the ornery parents, some of whom are quite reasonable and intelligent, Bad Luck Banging finally cultivates an essence of satire, though no real winners are established. Vicious Anti-Semitic statements and blatant misogyny successfully enrage, even as Emi herself is perhaps her own worst enemy. Progressive, but only to a certain point (an LGBTQ+ ally she is not), allows Jude’s point to be made—no matter whether her beliefs align with anyone’s, she has a right to privacy and the unfortunate leaking of her sex tape does not justify the treatment she receives. Of course, this is an exaggerated, slippery slope of events but clearly speaks to the age-old dichotomy of the mother/whore complex, evident across a myriad of cultures. Jude brings us to a precipice of three potential endings, two of which allow an enjoyable catharsis, though none of them make up for witnessing the unfortunate debacle forced upon Emi. Thought provoking and stimulating, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn shows Jude at his most inventive.

Reviewed on March 2nd at the 2021 (virtual edition) Berlin International Film Festival – Main Competition. 106 Mins.

★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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