Directed by: Radu Jude
Written by: Radu Jude
Starring: Katia Pascariu, Claudia Ieremia, Olimpia Mălai
Released: November 25, 2021
Grade: A

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

There are a group of renowned film festivals considered to be the “Big 5” – Cannes, Toronto, Venice, Berlin, and Sundance. Earlier this year, Titane took home the top prize at Cannes while Bad Luck Banging or Looney Porn did similar at Berlin. If you’re a fan of quality international cinema, it’s a great time to be going to the movies here in Australia because both films are being released simultaneously on 25 November 2021. They’d make a wild double feature!

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is utterly bonkers. You may not like it… but you certainly won’t forget it. It’s set in Romania and is centred on a middle-aged female school teacher, Emi (Pascariu), dealing with the ramifications of a leaked sex tape. The sex was consensual (it was with her husband) but the release of the tape was not.

Having gone viral on porn websites and been shared amongst the students, an urgent parent-teacher conference has been called to decide Emi’s fate. To describe how narrow minded some of these parents are, I was waiting for Helen Lovejoy from The Simpsons to appear and scream out “won’t someone please think of the children!”

Writer-director Radu Jude hits you from the opening scene. Rather than skirt around the subject, he shows the sex tape in detail. It’s some of the most explicit stuff I’ve seen in a mainstream film but it’s not intended to be gratuitous. It allows audiences to see exactly what the parents and students have seen and decide for themselves if anything is wrong with it. How would you react if your teenage child had seen a similar sex tape involving their teacher? Who bears responsibility?

Jude’s 106-minute film is split into three very different parts. The first act follows Emi walking through the streets of Bucharest where she talks on her phone, gets into an argument with a driver, and does a bit of shopping. There’s not a lot of dialogue but it’s still an inspired way to learn about the character. The camera is often kept at a voyeuristic distance and it helps us appreciate that while Emi is dealing with a very serious matter, she’s just an ordinary person. It provides a nice view of Bucharest also.

The second part is a 20-minute interlude that answers a question no one has asked - could you turn the dictionary into a movie? Jude throws a bunch of words on the screen and then, using a mix of visual images and subtitles, explains his interpretation of each. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Did it offer something? I don’t know.

The final chapter is where the film transforms into a viciously dark comedy. The parents congregate and Emi is forced to defend herself. She puts up a good fight! When coming up against the sexist, one-eyed, closed-minded parents who shirk all responsibility (such as why their kids access porn sites in the first place), it’s easy for Emi to go on the counterattack and poke holes in their arguments.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn marks one of the first films set in a COVID-19 world. For example, the parent-teacher meeting takes place outside in a courtyard with everyone socially distancing, wearing masks, and getting temperature checks. Jude uses this to create off-beat humour. There’s a great scene where a parent launches a verbal spray against Emi while wearing a face mask with a smiley face on the front. It makes them very hard to take seriously!

The whole meeting is farcical. The attendees are deciding the future of a loyal, hard-working teacher and yet they’re talking over the top of each other and letting their mobile phones ring throughout. There’s another darkly funny moment where you can hear the sex tape in the background (it’s being shown to a late arrival) while someone else has the floor and is trying to make a serious point. The ending (which I won’t spoil) is as insane and as memorable as everything which precedes it.

As Romania’s official entry for the best international feature film category at next year’s Academy Awards, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn lives up to its bat-shit crazy title.