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Silviu Ghetie/Micro Film 2021

MOVIE REVIEW
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021)

Winner of the Golden Bear at the 71st Berlinale, “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” can best be described as a cinematic angry rant, complete with formalist structure, confrontational graphic images and subversive antiestablishment views reminiscent of “I Stand Alone.” Yet the near juvenile glee on display makes Romanian writer-director Radu Jude more comparable to Lars von Trier than to Gaspar Noé.

“Loony Porn” takes an unconventional approach to the three-act structure. In the first act, school teacher Emi (Katia Pascariu) and her partner Eugen (Ştefan Steel, star of adult movies) film a sex tape – with erection and penetration in full view – which goes viral after Eugen inexplicably uploads it to Pornhub. Emi pays the headmistress, Mrs. Canuta (Claudia Ieremia), a visit at home to discuss the upcoming parent-teacher meeting which will decide her fate at the school and perhaps her teaching career.

The film takes place during the Covid-19 pandemic, and surgical-masked Emi spends the afternoon aimlessly dragging her heels around, dreading the reckoning about to take place. Anger and absurdity surface everywhere she goes, such as arguments sparking between strangers and an overheard phone conversation casually relaying that workers who spread an anticommunist manifesto were being reported to the secret police.

Second acts are normally reserved for ascending action and confrontation. Mr. Jude forgoes ascending action entirely in favor of simply confronting viewers for 26 minutes straight without relent. Like Mr. Noé did with “I Stand Alone,” Mr. Jude deploys word association by saying the quiet parts aloud, challenging dictionary definitions and the status quo alike. On aboriginies: “Persons of little worth who burden the soil of newly discovered countries.” On the Romanian Orthodox church: “Close to all dictatorships.” On children: “Political prisoners of their parents.”

In the final act, Emi returns to face the judgment of prudish parents, among them antimaskers, mansplainers, racists, xenophobes, homophobes, conspiracy-spewing Fox News watchers, alleged admirers of Romanian national poet Mihai Eminescu who haven’t the first clue about his oeuvre, parents who fail to teach their own kids yet wish to dictate what is taught, etc. By the time the film is over, absolutely no one is left unscathed.

It’s fascinating that, in spite of its cultural and historic specificities, so many of its central conflicts and arguments could be applied to the United States. It remains to be seen just how well “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn” will hold up following the pandemic. But for now, this is absolutely the film of the moment that everyone needs to see and debate.

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