Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn Review: Part Satire, Part Nonsense

Part of me wants to say Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is an example of a film that calls itself “different” by throwing every single thing against a wall to see what sticks and calling it a day. For that, I think it’s fair to call the film complete nonsense. On the contrary, I have to admit that I have never seen anything like this film, which occasionally hits hard on Romanian socio-political satire and contains plenty of content that you will think about long after it’s over. The debate comes from whether that content is memorable in a good way or a bad way.

The First Segment, Hinting at Something Bigger

Fresh off its Golden Bear win at the Berlin International Film Festival, Bad Luck Banging careens to the screen with a fierce, no-bullshit attitude. After an substantial sequence of unsimulated sex, we are introduced to the first of three chapters, where we learn the graphic video we just witnessed is a sex tape between schoolteacher Emilia (Katia Pascariu) and her husband, which unfortunately leaked onto the Internet and is now causing an uproar at the school in which she teaches.

We then follow Emilia around in the first chapter as she wanders around Bucharest, preparing herself for the imminent onslaught of angry parents at the upcoming school hearing. This entire segment is certainly shot in a way that I’ve never quite seen before. Time and time again, Emilia will walk down the street, only for the camera to look away at something else in the street. It’s almost as if the film doesn’t care about its protagonist, or that it’s distracted by a billboard, an advertisement, or a building’s architecture.

In the meantime, we see hard sexual innuendos everywhere, which are not that far from the tape itself. It’s an unexpectedly funny way for writer/director Radu Jude to explore social hypocrisy. Accompanying this commentary is be a series of random moments that will simply stay in your head. These moments range from a booth that sells “zipper repairs” to a scene where Emilia goes to a pharmacy and asks for a Xanax — not a prescription of Xanax, just one pill — only to be turned down and offered something “plant-based” instead. What starts as a head-scratching ordeal, where you’re trying to figure out just what the hell is the movie trying to do, slowly becomes a hilarious satire on Romanian politics, social standards, and consumerism.

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A Bizarre “Dictionary” Segment and a Loud, Cacophonous Finale

This bizarre energy is only further escalated in the second segment, which plays like a “dictionary” sequence, going through multiple words that are accompanied by footage, an image, or text that serves as narration — sometimes the text has absolutely nothing to do with the visuals on screen. With terms that go from “Romanian Revolution” and the country’s primitive laws on rape and underage sexual assault to graphic depictions of fellatio, the film is tonally all over the place, but perhaps that’s Jude’s intention. The experimental nature of it all certainly leaves an impression.

Then we arrive at the third and final segment of the film, which consists of the parental hearing itself. While the first segment has a meandering observational quality to it, this finale goes straight for the jugular, where Emilia must ward off the onslaught of angry parents who ramble on about social appropriateness, conformity, and fascism. To see those comments slowly morph into sexism and antisemitism is astounding, as Jude hits home on a gross social hypocrisy in Romania. It also doesn’t help that the story takes place during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which contributes to everyone’s mood being that much shittier.

Does It Overstay Its Welcome?

Although all three segments in Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn have something enticing to say, they are all in danger of overstaying their welcome.

Each one is approximately ten to fifteen minutes too long, thanks to its on-the-nose imagery and blunt storytelling. But I also can’t deny how I’m still thinking about the film, from Pascariu’s dedicated performance as the schoolteacher who holds her ground to the Clue-esque multiple-ending approach that concludes the film. If there’s anything that will stay in your mind, it’s got to be the final image in the film.

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Surely, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is a film worth discussing, but it’s also not subtle, nuanced, or powerful enough to recommend to the average moviegoer. But if you are seeking something that’s angry and aware of its own pretentiousness, then knock yourself out because Jude delivers quite the head-banging experience. Even though his film is very focused on Romanian culture, he’s captured an angry, frustrated mindset that has plagued all of us since this pandemic started.

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