Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn Review

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9

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8.6

Members

I learned two very important things from Bad Luck Banging Or Loony Porn, the provocative new film from Romanian director Radu Jude: 1) that people of a certain age are both shamefully interested in and incredibly uncomfortable with seeing sex on-screen and 2) that Romanians are aresholes. The latter may require more research, but seeing this film with a rather undiversified demographic on a Saturday morning proved the first thing very much true. Jude made a film in 2019 called I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians about the spot of ethnic cleansing that the Romanian Army carried out on the Eastern Front and its representation through art; his new film tackles similarly controversial subjects from Romania’s past and present from a different (and perhaps more compromising) angle.

The first few minutes of Bad Luck Banging would fall under the Amateur category on Pornhub – an unsimulated (but fairly tame) sex tape of two hetero people doing things that most healthy adults do. We discover that the woman in the video is a school teacher named Emi (Katia Pascariu), who is now facing the court of public opinion due to said video being accessed by her 12 year old students. Emi teaches at a prestigious and highly religious school, so this is not an ideal situation for her. The parents of her young audience are as irate over this as those good Christians who burned women at the stake for over a century, so a parent teacher meeting is required to determine if Emi will keep or lose her job. In actuality, this is just a chance for the more prudish parents to hurl derogatory and sexist words at her. It’s at times very frustrating not to be able to punch some of these people through the screen, but in that sense I think the film succeeds tremendously at getting its point across. 

The film is split into three parts – a lesson plan designed to teach us about Romanian culture at the ground level, its Orthodox Christianity and apparent secularity with the state and the nature of humans to forget everything we’ve learned. For much of Part One the camera follows Emi walking around the city (presumably suspended until the meeting later that day) and then leaves her to focus on something ugly, bizarre or beautiful. A woman angrily chastising the woman in front of her at the checkouts for using meal tickets and ‘being poor’ is our first clue that the Romanians might be a troubled people. Disney merchandise in the same window as a bunch of books about Jesus hints at the conglomerate connection between the two. Angry men blocking pedestrian crossings and footpaths with their small-appendage-compensatory cars tell the passers by who chastise them to “fuck off.” Beautiful, dilapidated architecture is afforded more attention than usual, our gaze being forced upon it as though this too has been devoured and cast aside by civilisations. It isn’t until Part Two that we discover the purpose of these choices.

If you weren’t treated to a militarised teaching style of History in high school (you were terrific and terrifying, Mr Chapman) and you tire easily of slideshow-style archives to the sound of nothing then, like the fidgety audience I saw this with, Part Two may not be for you. We’re given a Romania For Dummies lecture – an alphabetised summary of the important historical and cultural contexts for why some of Emi’s critics are reacting so unreasonably to an event external from her teachings or profession. Jude’s alphabet covers Hitler, Jesus, flaccid blowjobs and everything in between. We learn some shocking statistics, like how 55% of the population believe rape is excusable within marriage and that women who find themselves in domestic abuse situations at night are encouraged to wait until morning to call the authorities. The pattern of amusement and shock develops a unique tempo in this section of the film and while some sighs indicated a waning tolerance within my audience, it’s an essential lesson to prepare us for the onslaught of odd behaviour in Part Three.

A non-consensual nose boop

When we arrive at Emi’s ‘trial’ we’re as exhausted as she is. Her jury files into the picturesque courtyard and they’re a melting pot of judgemental Gen Xers, including a conservative father who says some of the nastiest and most backwards shit I’ve heard in awhile, a supposedly professional woman in a twin piece suit (Emi’s harshest opponent), a man in a Romanian military uniform who is more complex than he seems and a bunch of other nobodies who (as Emi rightfully points out) bought their brats the iPhones on which to watch this erotica in the first place. The parent teacher meeting is actually a more balanced inquiry than expected, carefully bringing together all the points Jude has made throughout the film into one open discussion. It’s fascinating to watch and impossible not to empathise with this poor woman who’s being persecuted for one unfortunate error in judgement that will likely affect the rest of her career.

The way the film is shot is in parts guerilla-style as it seems some ‘extras’ are unaware that a film is being made. An old lady stares down the barrel as she happens upon the camera and instructs her audience to “suck my cunt”, and everyone in the cinema did a double take as if we collectively misheard something. A couple of people notice the camera and dance for attention; a person in a rabbit outfit tells Emi to “fuck off” when she ‘boops’ his nose and it’s very unclear what is staged and what is real. This all adds to the theme of consent or rather, a lack of consent, in the plight of our main character. Emi willingly made the tape but she didn’t consent to it being stolen and spread around. Such is the nature of the internet unfortunately, even in a country that may still have dial-up (a joke – I’m 100% sure Romania has faster speeds than Australia.) She certainly doesn’t look comfortable when some of the more brazen parents insist on watching her video in front of her and commenting on it, the hypocrisy of their enjoyment becoming very apparent.

The parallels between the parents in this film and my fellow audience members were hard to ignore. For a group of people who lived through the sexual revolution they were audibly uncomfortable with just sitting and watching sex on-screen, their nervous giggles failing to drown out the soundtrack of grunts and squelchy thrusts. Like the parents in the film who delight in watching and critiquing Emi’s video right in front of her, they displayed a masochistic desire to be disgusted and a refusal to process what they were seeing. It’s the same cohort I see at all the screenings I attend – the same few who walked out of Lamb and Titane and who will come right back to misunderstand the next zany outing. A reputable source told me that many of the older audience members couldn’t even say the title of the film when retrieving their tickets at the counter (“the Loony movie” was the common abbreviation.) A wise witch once said “fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself” so for Christ’s sake, learn to say ‘vagina’ you crusty prudes.

After being slut shamed by her alleged best friend, sexual icon of the 90s Samantha Jones soliloquised “I will not be judged by you or society. I will wear whatever I want and blow whomever I want as long as I can breathe and kneel.” These sentiments are echoed gloriously by Emi in her final words to the parents before transforming into something not of this world but very much iconic of American capitalism and the enviable power it has afforded its women. In this last and most courageous Choose Your Own Ending (there are three possible endings and it doesn’t matter which is true), Emi wields an aggressively appropriate weapon to use on the group. While the CGI is Developing Country quality, the muffled gasps (and gags) are incredibly satisfying and a fitting finale to one of the more bizarre experiences you’ll have at the cinema this year. 8.5/10.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn cums (sorry) out November 25

 

I remember seeing A Goofy Movie in cinemas at the age of 4 and thinking "this is art."
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Critic