Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn review –  absurdist provocation in Covid-torn Romania | Berlin film festival 2021

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Radu Jude’s new film, with its rambling and self-consciously inelegant title, is an absurdist provocation, or an obsessive-compulsive disruption, like the photograph of the dadaist Benjamin Péret insulting a priest in the street.

It’s about the anger and frustration of Romania, and maybe of all of us, at the Covid outbreak, and our creeping suspicion that standard-issue human unhappiness will survive even when, or if, the disease is eradicated. Most of all, this is about porn, and even when it is not about porn, it is somehow still about porn and the porn aesthetic of social media. There is a bleak humour here, but also a kind of redundancy: the film constitutes a huge comedy pratfall that isn’t perhaps every bit as funny and meaningful as it was supposed to be.

It is in three parts: in the first, a harassed teacher, Emi (Katia Pascariu), is shown walking through Bucharest doing her shopping and attending to various tasks, with everyone wearing masks, or not quite wearing them, or not wearing them, and everyone is very bad-tempered with each other. Emi herself is particularly stressed: there are calls for her to be sacked from her job because an explicit sex video featuring Emi and her partner has surfaced on the internet, without her permission – and this gonzo-porn video begins the film.

In the second part, Jude suspends the conventional narrative to give us a dictionary of terms, in 26 alphabetical sections, covering any number of subjects, ancient and modern, from military tyranny to blowjobs, accompanied by maxims and apothegms from people such as Todorov, Benjamin and Woolf.

In the third part, the story of Emi resumes. There is a kangaroo-court show-trial of Emi, taking place outside in a courtyard (evidently because of social distancing rules) in which the parents will vote on whether Emi should be fired. This event becomes a grisly festival of misogyny, racism and hypocrisy. Emi must somehow impress on her shrieking accusers that it is the person who has uploaded the video without her knowledge who is at fault and not her. Confrontations and physical violence erupt and the headteacher plaintively asks for everyone to “maintain social distancing” to which they jeer: “Oh, like she did in the video?”

There is a creeping fascination to the cinematography in the opening scene. As poor Emi trudges about, attending to her chores, the camera wanders away from her, filming irrelevant or spurious objects. It appears to be taking stunned notice of all there is around her: torn posters, things thrown away in the streets, ruined buildings. The details suddenly pile up on the screen, as if the camera itself is undergoing a breakdown, suddenly noticing, for the first time, all this meaningless clutter that surrounds all of us, all the time. Like us, it has just about had enough.

The static dictionary section is the middle part of the triptych, but it’s also a bizarre interruption that appears to be trying to tell us something: here are all the determinant factors that have led up to Emi’s ordeal, all the forces of history and ideology. And then there is Emi’s bizarre trial itself.

The film is a contemptuous slap at boredom, at hypocrisy and at everything petty and mean. I’m not sure that it entirely transcends all these things, but there’s a rebellious spark.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is screened at the Berlin film festival.

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Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn review –  absurdist provocation in Covid-torn Romania | Berlin film festival 2021

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