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Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

Written by Patrick Hao

67/100

Radu Jude sets out to disarm the audience with the opening three minutes of Bad Luck Banging and Looney Porn. For the art-house faithful watching, he begins his film with a “climax.” Well… a man close to climaxing. Radu Jude’s Romanian social satire starts with the very explicit sex tape that sets the film in motion. The sex tape involves a schoolteacher Emi (Katia Pascariu) and her husband, and when the tape begins spreading amongst her students, Emi becomes the subject of public ridicule.

This beginning three minutes is just one small part in Jude’s provocation. The film is split into three parts, all titled “One Way Street,” “A Short Dictionary of Signs and Wonders,” and “Praxis and Innuendos (Sitcom).”  The three chapters offer a distinct satire on Romanian culture, one that often went over the head of your humble reviewer whose knowledge of Romanian history is next to zilch. But, beyond the specificity of Romanian history, Jude’s points of critiques are aimed at the obtuse contradictions of people and power. Romania’s history of oppression under Soviet Communism has been replaced by the oppression of late capitalism.

Bad Luck Banging and Looney Porn also have the distinct pleasure of being one of the first great pandemic movies, not by being explicitly about the pandemic but by having it inform the daily lives of the characters. Slights, passive aggression, and outright arguments all behind face masks will never not have an edge of comic absurdity. The first section finds absurdity in Bucharest as the film follows Emi doing errands before her extrajudicial trial with the parents of her school regarding her sex tape. Comic moments keep flaring as the city emboldens little chaos. Everything is happening around Emi – rude shoppers, store workers, mascots – as she seems to be the only sane person around.

The second chapter becomes a collage film. Jude compiles footage, images, and his own recreations to create an ironic multimedia word association. Jude’s target is the overt hypocrisy of governments, people, and power. His diagnostic approach in this section is grim and humorous but eventually becomes tiring as you begin to wonder what Emi is up to.

The third chapter is Bad Luck Banging and Looney Porn’s best and most irreverent sections. Emi is set up for this trial by parents of the school who want to not only take her to task for her video but for her views. After almost two years of culture wars over mask mandates, critical race theory, and whatever other show trials are happening in the public sphere in America, this section is reflective of the hysteria of these public forums of ideas. Emi becomes a human effigy for the parents to tarnish with their histrionics and hypocrisy.

Radu Jude is a diagnostic filmmaker, one who has a clear eye for his targets. However, he suffers from a lack of self-editing as the targets are so far and wide that they begin to clash with each other, obscuring any salient points beyond “society is absurd.” Then again, maybe society is absurd is enough of a thesis because the public discourse reminds us of that every day.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn Trailer

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is currently playing in limited theatrical release find showtimes near you on the Magnolia Pictures website.

You can follow Patrick and his passion for film on Letterboxd and Twitter.

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