Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, or Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (and the Pandemic)

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, or Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (and the Pandemic)
Katia Pascariu in Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn.

Crowned with the Golden Bear, Radu Jude’s new film — Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn — is a bold, disorienting comedy against contemporary society’s bigotry and hypocrisy.

25 March 2021

Tune into Radu Jude’s latest movie, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, and the first question you’ll probably ask is: “Did I get the wrong film?” The Romanian director’s much-discussed new feature, which world-premiered in the main competitive strand of this year’s online edition of the Berlinale, begins with both a very long — and very explicit — opening sequence. Depicting a man and a woman having intense sexual intercourse, the startling amateur porn shoot goes on to become the film’s main catalyst after the clip – more or less accidentally – goes viral on the internet. The woman’s identity is soon disclosed: her name is Emi (Katia Pascariu) and she works as a teacher in a prestigious private school. Fearing the consequences of this episode, her colleagues and the pupils’ parents build up an impromptu people’s tribunal wherein Emi must face a cruel backlash.

The drama itself takes place in a real-world Bucharest hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, where people wear masks, try to maintain social distance, and large gatherings are prohibited. Jude does not hesitate in showing this peculiar historical moment in all of its weirdness, making the outbreak a backdrop element of the narrative, but exploiting it deeply in terms of cinematic aesthetics. As a result of this approach, the camera occasionally glimpses at Bucharest’s empty spaces in the outdoor scenes, filled with rusty billboards and closed shops as symbols of our pre-pandemic existence. Masks meanwhile are a proper costume item, capable of reflecting characters’ personality.

A still from Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

During our virtual chat, Jude told The Calvert Journal how the film drew heavily on real world events: “A few years ago, I visited some friends, we had drinks and somebody mentioned a case about a teacher exposed on the Internet after the publication of an amateur porn video,” he shared. “The main question we discussed was: was she still morally fit to work in a school? Gradually, our conversation became very heated and we ended up fighting. We went home full of anger and hatred. I realised how this topic was important to explore, since it’s so divisive.”

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This experience, however, was just an initial source of inspiration: “I didn’t want to make a film about that episode, rather around it.” This peculiar “essayistic” approach explains the director’s choice to implement a playful, tripartite structure. The first section is a more traditional, linear segment dedicated to setting up the plot, although not exempt from “out-of-the-blue” moments of footage presumably filmed incognito, such as the one depicting a very short, overweight man in tank top slowly exiting a gigantic black jeep. The second part sharply interrupts the film and has been described by Jude as a “long commercial break,” where he assembles, more or less effectively, pictures, words, and archival footage to explore ideas and prejudices within Romanian and Western societies around the topics of sex, pandemics, and religion. The third sequence — the funniest and most action-packed — is set in the school’s courtyard. Here, Emi ends up joining a debate where parents and staff discuss her responsibilities and are called to decide upon her professional future. In a final twist, viewers will watch three different endings one after the other — each more surreal than the last — so that they can “perhaps pick the one they like the most,” says by Jude. This is also an apt choice for a piece subtitled “A sketch for a popular film,” far from having a definite, conventional form.

Ultimately, Jude’s urgency to tell this story and the prospect that the healthcare crisis would last much longer than expected pushed him to rush the completion of his project. “When the first lockdown had ended, I asked my producer to start filming, with the money we had and without waiting for bigger grants. I suggested to include the pandemic in the story,” he said. “I didn’t want to wait for the autumn, as we suspected that a second wave would have started, which unfortunately did.” To minimise risks, the team enforced social distancing, continually tested those on set and had a dedicated medical crew monitoring people’s temperature. Jude also moved some scenes from interior to exterior locations to favour distancing.

Yet Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is a vision which will not be easy to forget — and audiences are sure to be split on whether that is for better or for worse. It manages to catch the absurdity of our times, or at least part of it. It also offers an interesting contemporary take on a post-socialist society influenced by the power of Eastern Orthodox Church and afraid of people’s judgement. Within it, its mock court is an exemplary showcase of hypocrisy; all of the characters, from the priest to the conservative airline pilot, from the bigoted mother to the brainless “anti-mask” police officer, engage in a cruel trial against the poor teacher, without admitting their failures in educating children and putting them at the forefront for their own benefit.

The feature was produced by Ada Solomon through Romania’s microFILM, and co-produced by Luxembourg’s Paul Thiltges Distributions, the Czech Republic’s Endorfilm and Croatia’s Kinorama.

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