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Berlinale Review: Radu Jude's "Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn"

Radu Jude's latest meets and defies all and any expectations in a flurry of comedy and porn.
Ela Bittencourt
Radu Jude has such a wondrous appetite for political incorrectness, it’s no surprise that his latest film, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, is a scathing parodic caper—or plainly put, it’s got balls. Emi, played with refreshing coolness by Katia Pascariu, is a teacher at a prestigious school in Bucharest. The film’s opening shows Emi and her beau making an amateur porn movie with dramatic gusto—and a brief interruption by Emi’s father who, behind the closed door, voices his impatience about Emi not picking up his meds. Emi’s private life suddenly spins out of control when her feckless hubby posts the video on the Internet. Soon enough, Emi’s traipsing through town, masked (so far, the first welcome gesture in the Berlinale program of supra-cinematic reality intruding into the cinematic one), fretting over how to take it down from Pornhub, and whether she’ll get fired. The film concludes with a full-on caricature of a school meeting: Lofty pedagogical ideas get bandied with vicious sexist, racist, particularly anti-Semitic slurs, pushing the unnerved Emi to metamorphose—a teeny spoiler here—into a dildo-wielding avengeress.
If this summary seems a tad too tidy, rest assured, given that this is a Jude movie through and through, there are many detours. Jude leaves the straightforward action mainly for two chapters, while the others’ motifs shoot out like many fertile spurts (not squirts; I’m trying to resist carnal lingo, though the film’s sparring, debauched, wicked tone certainly invites it). But then again, just as in Aferim!, Jude takes his comedy very seriously. His true theme is a world gone virally ill, long before the pandemic. Not just viral videos, but the entire postmodern complex, in which everything, from desire and intimacy to history, gets digested, regurgitated and monetize as instant content—thanks to the same digital means that power cinema these days. The film’s mid-section walks viewers through many ills, with anecdotal entries on sex, psychoanalysis, Nazis, the Holocaust and the Romanian Revolution of 1989. Jude, however, doesn’t merge these disjunctive threads into a totalizing whole. Rather than a prophetic Godardian whack, Jude’s prolific, scattershot quotations deliver a quick sardonic jab. When he inserts the final title cards, such as “We’ve only kept you a moment,” they feel like Shakespearean ducking—in the vein of “don’t throw tomatoes at performers”—but also a shrewd signal that proves how well Jude harnesses this moment’s temporal drift: The director acknowledges that we’re watching his movie online and our attentions are straying.

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Festival CoverageBerlinaleBerlinale 2021Radu Jude
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