BERLINALE ’21 — Sex, Morals and Politics Come To The Fore in ‘Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Babardeală cu bucluc sau porno balamuc)’

A group of parents, all wearing different face masks, and outfits hold out their hands, reacting to something off screen. They are bathed in red light, and in the background there are trees.
Berlinale

That small sub-section of film viewers who have recently proclaimed — in a Hays Code like fit of morality — that unnecessary sex scenes in films shouldn’t exist would have a hard time with Radu Jude’s latest film in Competition at the Berlinale this year.

Emi (Katia Pascariu), a teacher at a prestigious school in Romania, is forced to attend a meeting with the parents of the children she teaches who are demanding her resignation after a sex tape of her appears on the internet. Said sex tape appears without warning at the beginning of the film; shot from the point of view of her partner, these playful, intimate and yes — explicitly sexual acts are shown in all their glory for the first five minutes of the film.

Jude then dives into the narrative — minimal as it is — by splitting the film into three sections, each signalled by upbeat music, a bright pink title card and an elegant, swirling font. The first is almost sedate in its laidback approach; Emi walks around the city, taking several phone calls in which it transpires that the tape was uploaded by her husband for reasons that are never explained. Around her people swear, fight and argue as the sun beats down on a city that is close to boiling over.

The second act diverts from the narrative entirely with a scattershot montage of subjects ranging from blonde jokes to the Romanian Orthodox Church to the purpose of cinema. While these disparate and brief snippets of archive footage, paintings or photographs distract from the narrative of Emi and her issues, they do provide a kind of twenty minute overview of society. The subjects we hold precious, those we don’t and those that have influenced the way we think. All of which leads to the final forty minutes: a courtroom-esque showdown between Emi and parents, held in a splendid courtyard decked with statues, coloured lights and the Covid-secure spaced out chairs needed to shoot in a pandemic.

Jude’s use of the tripartite structure, with very clear and interesting stylistic differences between them keeps the film from dragging too much, although it’s over-indulgence in the final act does become tiresome as the final judgement of Emi is stretched out to allow every character to say their piece.

It is this final act in which the themes that Jude has previously hit the audience over the head with, come to the fore. Slut-shaming Emi, the parents cast aspersions on her and her teachings, while openly gazing at the video displayed for evidence. These parents, so desperate to preserve the innocence of their children and the reputation of this ‘high-class’ school descend quickly and without hesitation into anti-Semitism and racism against the Romani people.

Their hypocrisy is never overtly challenged, instead it lingers in air as Emi tries to defend herself against the mob view who swing between outrage, objectification and disgust as one woman’s private life is dragged across the coals.

There is no doubting Jude’s mastery of style or confidence in his filmmaking; Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is unafraid to be vibrant, loud and bold in its denouncements of Romanian society, refusing, consistently, to be an understated watch.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn screened at the virtual edition of the Berlinale Film Festival 2021

by Rose Dymock

Rose is a film critic , who graduated from the University of Liverpool with an MRes in Film Studies. She loves thrillers, Al Pacino, and multilingual cinema and she’s not entirely sure if she’s a millennial.

Find her on twitter @rosedymock and find more of her work at https://rosedymock.contently.com

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