BERLINALE 2021: BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN BY RADU JUDE

BERLINALE 2021: BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN BY RADU JUDE

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on pocket
Share on email

By Mónica Delgado

The domestic images of a sexual act are the raw material with which Romanian Radu Jude begins and builds a satire, -understood here as a discourse that sharply and corrosively criticizes a system of habits and flaws, prejudices and common meanings- although not with a moralizing intention, but with a politically burlesque one. This prologue, which contains more than five minutes of an intimate video (which fictionally replicates the phone recording of a man in the middle of intercourse or fellatio), poses the condition that we assume as spectators throughout the film: on the one hand, as voyeurs, and, on the other, as companions of the dissemination of that video on social networks and WhatsApp. A school teacher is the protagonist of the video, and it is, from the consequences of this “porn” viralization  in tow, that we will follow her along two parts: one, on a walk through the city, and another, in a picturesque trial (reminiscent of a Miguel Gomes’ film) at school before parents and other teachers. These two moments are separated by an alphabet that becomes a “Zeitgeist”, with selected words from A to Z, whose meanings are aligned with the Romanian context, its history, its political leaders, its regimes, and the sensibilities of an alienated country.

As in one of his previous works I do not care if we go down in history as barbarians (2018), in Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn the dramatic weight falls on a female character (played by Katia Pascariu), who will become the figure that verifies various cultural aspects in relation to women, their objectification and sexualization, and as part of a broader, capitalist and complex structure that subjugates an entire society.

The first episode shows the teacher in her daily actions, and it allows us to measure the weight of the pandemic in the streets of Bucharest and to show the marked social differences. Wealthy neighborhoods where it is not necessary to wear a mask, business advertisements of transnational companies populating the urban landscape, and insinuations to women in the streets, as part of the situations that the protagonist experiences while buying fruit, entering a pharmacy or simply buying a book. It is likely that very few passers-by with whom she crosses paths identify her as the woman in the viralized video, however it seems that she is recognized, observed and questioned; what prevails is the idea of the lack of tranquility of women in these routines. For this first episode, Jude chooses still shots to show the woman crossing tracks, walking down avenues, entering and leaving stores; however, from time to time he makes a light panning to show posters or notices that speak of a political campaign or advertising styles of representation. The teacher’s sense of oppression, in the face of the increasingly widespread viralization, is perceived as more uncomfortable in closed spaces, such as in the director’s friend’s apartment, or in the fruit market, as if male vigilance became more evident in these domestic spaces.

The second episode shows a Radu Jude that appeals to archive material, with a very humorous and questioning intention. This chapter does not have the solemnity and drama of The Exit of the Trains (2020), a successful film of historical recovery, whose two and a half hours are sustained by a concatenation of photos and testimonies about a massacre at the hands of the Nazis, and more. It is well composed in an ironic key, like the one used in Uppercase Print (another great film he directed in 2020), about the role of television based on a documented case of the graffiti of a teenager, who was arbitrarily sanctioned by the regime by Ceaucescu. Here, Radu Jude proceeds to describe the meanings of a series of words that order Romanian society, from their uses and meanings since the times of the communist party, the aftermath of the Second World War or the Cold War. Located between the two parts that describe the avatars of the porn video teacher, and from various images that include videos of all kinds shared on social networks, film and television archive material -from Muybridge to Ceaucescu-, this lexicon allows us to reconcile scenes from a world overwhelmed by the forms of capital, in its alienation and exploitation, that are related to the way in which a video manages to be viralized. While the images appear, texts seasoned with thoughts inspired by Ambrose Bierce and his famous Devil’s Dictionary, Virginia Woolf, Sartre, Walter Benjamin, Umberto Eco, Paul Celan, among others, appear through subtitles. This existential and critical thinking sustains this alphabet of resistance, which reveals tragedies and prejudices.

In the third part, there is a change in tone. Here we are already in the terrain of the theatrical Jude -as with the Uppercase Print staging-, which looks more burlesque and spectacular. Colored lights with parents in a school reunion that looks more like a Halloween gallery. In this episode, Jude decides to go with the logic of a legal trial, against the teacher and her porn video. The school principal acts as judge, while the parents and teachers appeal to dissimilar arguments to obtain the expulsion of the teacher. Thus, we are witnessing a catalog of hackneyed arguments, supported by sexism, fundamentalism and fake news that sound very universal. Reactionary claims that would easily apply to contexts of Trump’s US or Bolsonaro’s Brazil. Women exposed to be judged and censored.

The resolution proposed by Jude, a response to essentialisms, consists of three possibilities. Three ways to seal the story of the teacher, and at the same time three opportunities for chances of delirium, extremes and outbursts. Each equally brilliant and, also, provocative. Above all, from the confrontation that it can produce in the viewers (feminists), from of the representation of an attack that has a lot of the self-confidence of trash cinema, of extra-factory comedy, of underground comedy, but that contains a very patriarchal violence that the protagonist also suffers. In this world no one seems to be safe.

Through his most recent works, and a panoramic vision over the years, we appreciate a very active Radu Jude, without fear of exploration, without expressive limits, who went from documentary to crazy pastiche in a matter of months,  without changing that very corrosive look on Romania and its time, perhaps  now more acute than ever in this pandemic context.

Golden Bear Official Competition

Director: Radu Jude
Cinematography: Marius Panduru
Editing: Catilin Cristuiiu
Music: Jura Ferina, Pavao Miholjevi

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on whatsapp
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin
Share on pocket
Share on email