BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN

Reviewed by GREG KING

Director: Radu Jude

Stars: Katia Pascariu, Claudia Ieremia, Olimpia Malai.  

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One of the more interesting film titles of the year. And despite winning a number of awards, including the prestigious Golden Bear at the 2021 Berlin Film Festival, this irreverent Romanian comedy/drama has also been one of the more controversial films of the year.  

Bad Luck Banging opens with a frank, quite explicit and confronting full on sex scene between Emi Cilibiu (Katia Pascariu), a respected history teacher at a conservative school, and her husband. He uploads the amateur video to an adult video site, but soon afterwards someone else leaks it to the internet’s biggest porn site Pornhub. Even though the video is quickly taken down, the damage is done. Many of the parents of the children that Emi teaches are outraged and offended and fear the damage that such material may do to their innocence. They demand the sacking of Emi. A meeting to discuss Emi’s future is hastily called.  

Bad Luck Banging unfolds in three distinct chapters. In the first we see Emi walking through the streets of Bucharest doing her shopping. This gives us some insights into the bustling daily routines of life in contemporary Romania, as well as showing us the landscapes and cityscapes. The third chapter deals with the meeting itself, which grows heated as passions flare and tempers rise, and the proceedings begin to expose the hypocrisy and double standards of many of those voicing their outrage. The drama plays out amidst the COVID pandemic – everyone is wearing masks and observing social distancing etiquette at the meeting – but the vestiges of civility are quickly stripped away.  

The middle chapter however is also interesting as it plays out in almost documentary form as an illustrated “short dictionary of anecdotes, signs and wonders” drawing on drawings and archival material to explore the history and culture of Romania, thus satirising the sensitivities of modern culture as it also deals with themes such as power, politics, sexuality, pornography, war and violence, racial stereotypes, prejudice, family, exploitation of the working class.  

Pascariu’s performance here as the besieged but stoic Emi is quite understated. 

Writer/director Radu Jude has provided plenty of food for thought with his provocative drama that explores some big ideas and themes. In his previous films (I Do Not Care If We Go Down As Barbarians, etc) Jude has been particularly critical of Romania’s past, and Bad Luck Banging is no different in this regard. his is not a film for everybody – indeed many people have been known to walk out during the confronting first few minutes.   

★★☆ 

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