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Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn review – raucously funny takedown of modern society

Rude, irreverent, stupid and yet cuttingly witty and intelligent, Radu Jude’s Berlin winner is like Brass Eye by way of Slavoj Žižek

Put simply, more films should be like Radu Jude's Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn. Here is a work that is undoubtably on-the-nose and yet reveals an ever greater layer of meanings with each viewing, tumbling through post-communist Romania and the severed, disassociated network of symbols and ideas that form the background of daily life in the country and wider Eastern Europe.

The sliver of films that make it to distribution in the UK from Eastern Europe tend to be of a very particular bent: serious, slow-paced, dealing realistically with heavy social issues, aimed very clearly at the arthouse audience – middle-class, leaning older, fully ready to tut along at how shockingly bad life is elsewhere. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing: Jude’s Romanian New Wave contemporaries, like Cristian Mungiu and Cristi Puiu, have produced masterpieces on those lines, dealing with abortion (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) and issues with healthcare (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), respectively, with a direct, steely focus.

For all the value of the realist approach of simply depicting a social issue, Jude’s direction goes far beyond that into the ideology that thrums in the background and creates the foundations for these issues: moralism, cowardice, intellectual incoherence. Bad Luck Banging is split into three different parts, each one stylistically distinct, but culminating into one maddeningly focused final work.

The first part sees our protagonist Emi (Katia Pascariu) wander through Bucharest, agitated about a private sex video of her own that has been leaked online, and which puts her job at a prestigious school at risk. The camera stays in long shots, following Emi and then often panning away, as if being distracted by the noise and mayhem of the city: English-language billboards for steroid-pumping gyms cover the tops of buildings; men park their cars on the sidewalk, blocking pedestrians; construction splurges everywhere, the twin poisons of capital and insecure masculinity literally exterminating public space. In this, Jude finds a vein of absurdist poetry, a city symphony for a Bucharest fast being colonised by wealth that benefits nobody but the rich.

The second part comes as a sort of dictionary, with definitions for words such as authoritarianism, domestic violence and blowjobs, played against often ironically deployed images. Here, Jude reaches beyond simply depicting something and into a collective psyche, into the way we subconsciously make assumptions about words, their definitions and the images we associate with them. But he does so with humour, absurd and bleak, in a way that is raucously funny – Brass Eye by way of Slavoj Žižek.

The third part returns to Emi, as she faces down angry parents in a kangaroo trial at school. The parents themselves emerge from across the social spectrum: socially conservative pearl-clutching mothers, ageing army officers who have never stepped out of the military mindset, conspiracy theorists, and smug intellectuals. Emi is blamed for the sex video, despite the fact it has emerged without her consent. In cutting back and forth between Emi and the crowd, the latter frequently re-arranges itself between shots, as if reflecting a society that has long since lost the ability to define itself, our collective intellect poisoned by fake news, confirmation bias, and absolute moral certainties – diseases that the film makes clear are apparent across the political divide. Facts play no meaning in the trail, only emotions, as if we assume that feeling something automatically makes it real.

Each scene here is attacked with glee, abandon, and chaos, reflecting a world without control. It will infuriate some and go completely over the heads of others. But instead of standing smugly on one side of a divide like most satirical films, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn finds targets everywhere – after all, it’s always far more difficult and interesting to attack one’s own side. It hits the bullseye on every single attempt.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is now showing in UK cinemas.

Where to watch

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