A snarling satire that’s been censored in the USA and banned in several countries for “hardcore pornographic content?” Bad Luck Banging is one of most daring films out this year
School teacher Emi (Katia Pascariu) is facing public humiliation and possible dismissal from her job after a homemade sex tape goes public and spreads around her school like wildfire. ‘Bad luck Banging or Loony Porn’ to give it its full title is the latest film from Romanian director Radu Jude. It is getting its UK premiere at the 2021 BFI London Film Festival as part of the laugh strand after winning the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival.
The film is split into three acts. The first see’s Emi learn she has been found out and then take a walk through the covid emptied streets of Bucharest. The second act breaks from traditional film making and is more of a modern art piece; a collage of clips, headlines and dictionary definitions are used to highlight the prejudice and hypocrisy of modern society. In the third act Jude returns to the main plot and we see the showdown between Emi and the parents at an evening meeting where they have been asked to debate and vote on if she gets to keep her job.
There is absolutely nothing subtle about Bad Luck Banging, this is a confronting and at times bizarre film that puts extremely hardcore content unapologetically at its centre but also encourages the viewer to think about how society handles shame. It is at times heavy handed, and the film maker has used the wild, X rated Monty Pythonesque middle section to directly talk to the audience; tearing apart Romanian society and its attitudes towards racism, the Holocaust, poverty, religion and violence against women and children to name but a few.
Above all its common theme is the hypocrisy of the whole situation. Emi’s walk through the city in the first act is used to highlight all the vices that are deemed more palatable in modern day society; through long lingering shots we see people drinking, gambling and being bombarded with sexually suggestive advertising. In the third act whilst the parents claim to be disgusted by the sex tape, they have all downloaded it and take great pleasure in watching it together repeatedly during the meeting. Whilst the central message of the film is angry, this third act in particular is very funny. The parents wildly misinformed and often racist and mysoginistic views are played for laughs as much as you may be shaking your head at them, and there’s some very fine monologues from Pascariu to balance out the idiocy.
I’ve found trying to judge whether this is a ‘good’ film or not (and give it a rating out of 5) near impossible. Whilst watching it I swung wildly between ‘this is terrible’ and ‘this is a work of audacious genius’ about six times. Pretty much everything I could criticise about it, (it’s over the top, heavy handed, crudely put together) are all purposefully done and central to the directors’ message and the unusual form feels much more like a political art piece rather than mere entertainment for much of the run time. I think I’ve landed on “mad brilliance” in the end, but Bad Luck Banging is an odd watch and one of the wildest cinema experiences I’ve had in recent years. Not for the faint hearted and certain to divide audiences.
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is playing at the BFI London Film Festival (6-17th October 2021) and awaits a general release. Tickets for the festival are available here