Berlinale 2021: BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN

From its opening beat, it is clear Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is in it to shock. The first three minutes consist of uncensored, unabashed sex; dirty talk, a fully zoomed-in oral scene, a touch of BDSM-friendly whipping, you name it. The people on the homemade video, we learn soon after, are a primary history teacher, Emi (Katia Pascaru), and her husband. Despite wearing a leopard-print mask, the teacher is easily recognised, stirring up high-level controversy at the fancy school where she works. 

A Tale in Three Parts

Split into three parts, Loony Porn begins with Emi moving on with her day as chaos rapidly unravels. In between increasingly stressful phone calls to her husband, she walks the streets of Bucharest bearing witness to seemingly ordinary exchanges. A woman rudely rushes the customer in front of her at a supermarket cashier, someone who can’t afford her full shopping and needs to go through all items choosing what to leave behind. Equally rude is a man who parked his big truck in the middle of the sidewalk, blocking Emi’s route. She reprimands the offender, who is quick to make sexual claims about her mother while refusing to move his vehicle. These interactions are a reflection of how naturalised is anger, which is a direct reflection of not only the COVID-19 pandemic but a long-ingrained stream of apathy. 

Although we are by now all too familiar with the ins and outs of the new normal, it is odd seeing people sporting face masks, keeping social distance, and having their temperature taken in a film that comments on the pandemic and yet does not centre around it. We hear people in a pharmacy spread Facebook-born theories on how incenses can cure cancer and how the eucharist spoon carries no bacteria and therefore cannot transmit the coronavirus. Director Radu Jude makes the most of the diegetic, not wasting a single opportunity to fill the background with social commentary.

Berlinale 2021: BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN
Source: Berlinale

In part two, this very same aptitude to cleverly build social commentary goes on steroids as Jude weaves in a patchwork of historical footage and contemporary snippets on sexuality, rape culture, and violence. One after the other, clips come accompanied by titles such as “realism, folklore, respect, pornography, selfie”. We’re immersed in this interwoven mix of Emi’s official school curriculum, including Romania’s somewhat muddled role in World War II, and the pillars of the hypocritical morals she is now judged by. This frenzied, fast pace compilation is masterfully crafted, undermining the preciousness of poorly-standing politics as the director guides the viewer into part three. 

Madness All Around

It is in part three that all hell breaks loose as Emi – quite literally – takes the stand, facing a large group of parents as they discuss the consequences of her leaked video. The group, which one would assume to be fairly homogeneous since their children all attend an expensive school, is actually an eclectic potpourri, including a priest with a face mask that says “I can’t breathe” and a hipster wearing a blazer on top of a cool™ shirt with capitalism written in the iconic Coke font. The reunion is bonkers from early on, when one of the mums plays the sex tape to the whole assembly, austerely holding her tablet as we hear Emi moan and pant. She declares she wants everyone to be on the same page, but – even under her mask – her expression is one of triumph as she manages to further humiliate the teacher. 

Berlinale 2021: BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN
source: Berlinale

What comes next is a deliciously unfiltered back and forth between the parents and Emi as she refuses to quietly abide by their moralist rules, Pascaru delivering a fantastic performance as she quietly mutters under her breath, slowly boiling to the point of combustion. The teacher fiercely stands up to every one of her tormentors, proudly standing by the fact that sex is a part of life, one no one should be ashamed of. Jude employs all of his carefully chosen pawns to bring out specific topics, such as antisemitism (“We all know Hitler and the camp commanders were all jews killing their own as an excuse to create Israel”, rages a father), xenophobia (“You’re all acting like gipsies!”, shouts another)  and overall blatant sexism. 

At times feverish delirium, at others sober critique – often both – Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is an unafraid display of confident filmmaking. In his choice of wielding the global pandemic as a catalyst instead of a protagonist, Jude fashioned an unforgettable modern fable that is as fresh as it is witty and, most of all, just batshit fun. 

What are some of your favourite satires? Tell us in the comments!

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn screened as part of Berlinale 2021. 

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