Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn   Radu Jude

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn   Radu Jude

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn   Radu Jude (2021; Rom) Katia Pascariu

viewed: Star and Shadow, Losing the Plot Weekend, 18 June 2022; ticket £7

 

A fine state of affairs

Jude’s Bad Luck Banging (BLB) is a continuation of the series of remarkable films that have characterised Romanian New Cinema since the fall of Ceausescu. Significant directors contributing to this output include Porumboiu, Puiu, Mungui – as well as Jude.

I don’t consider myself especially knowledgeable about this wave of film makers, but what I have seen is that the films of these directors are characterised by their fluent appropriation of the possibilities of film language coupled to an intellectual rigour directing them towards social and political critique.

The question arises as to why Romania alone of the former Soviet satellite states should have produced such a creatively active film community. I think that film above all other media is in the business of the exploitation of images as signs. With the fall of Communism, Romanians experienced, as did other East European Societies, a sudden substitution of one set of imagery for another. Unlike the other Soviet satellite nations, Romania had played out this kind of switch before (documented by Jude in BLB) when in 1944 the country stopped supporting the losing coalition of the Nazi Axis changing sides to join the successful Allied Powers. Such an experience perhaps resulted in Romanians being adroit at reading the signs, seeing which way the winds blow. Perhaps it also accustomed them to radical signage and imagery changes causing a certain residual cynicism about the way in which they were being subjected to different regimes of manipulation.

The experience of a sudden substitution of the hammer and sickle by Coca Cola et al, the sudden destabilising collapse of Romanian notional ‘collective’ ownership and its replacement by actual ‘Corporate’ ownership, did not fool the people who could see that all that was happening was a group of people swopping round the images on the billboards. The captain of the ship of state had been assassinated. But the ship’s officers, kept their positions, re-rigged the vessel under the flag of private enterprise, gave a motivational pep talk to the crew, and held fast to the previous course of self serving aggrandisement. Ordinary Romanians found they had ended up with a shoddy deal: exchanging the admittedly grim certainties of a failed dictatorship for the tat of capitalism that was strong on promises of a better tomorrow but too corrupt to deliver. Many Romanians, amongst them film makers, read the signs of corruption,  which as people who were used to being misdirected by omissions lies and deceit, they were well equipped to read.

Jude’s BLB is scripted from a particular psychic space, a space of joyously seeing through the bullshit lies and hypocrisy in which their society is embedded. It is worth noting that the various ‘waves’ characterising epochs of national film making have all developed out of critical social insights and the determination of film makers to probe deeply into the psychic spaces thereby revealed. Italian Neo-Realism coming out of the need to depict the actual and the real after the devastation of war (actual both in the settings and also in emotional rendering); British new wave deriving from the perception of the malaise at the heart of British class society; French New Wave exploiting the philosophical possibilities Cinema itself as a mode of communication; German Cinema exploring psycho-political map of post war Europe. And now Romanian film makers moving through the hollowed out social space occupied by people suddenly dumped into the Capitalist dream.

Jude’s BLB divides into 5 parts, if you regard the trial and the verdict as separately conceived sections. It opens with the provocation: the full on ballsy home porno movie, uninhibited good fun sex in the flesh. Then follows Emi’s walk across Bucharest to reach the school where she teaches to explain to the parents and teachers how the private sex flick made by her and her husband ended up on a pulically accessible porn site. Jude orchestrates Emi’s walk through Bucharest as indictment. Emi, respectably dressed, walks through the streets of her city which as a setting bears witness to a sodomised culture. Her walk takes in a matrix of psychological toxicity: every where she turns she finds anger, people primed on emotional hair triggers waiting to explode at the slightest pretext. The city leeches cheap and clammy shop signs, advertising hoardings for sexless commercial sex that ubiquitously sell product. And, so it is asked: it is in the midst of all this she is being held to account?

Katia Pascariu’s walk through Bucharest reminded me of Jeanne Moreau’s midnight walk through Paris in Malle’s ‘Lift to the Scaffold’. Different walks but both characterised by intent and both expressing an oblique powerful emotional statement encapsulating something about the experience of life in the city.

Jude’s third section is a montage, comprising clips of film and information, directed as indictments of hypocrisy double standards and double binds that permeate our understanding of history, but also giving a wry commentary on the Corona pandemic and the stresses (also experienced by Emi on her walk) caused by the health regulations. Some clips work better than others, but they are in toto an effective call to the audience to engage with the play out of the issues taken up by Jude, in the final sections of the film: the ‘trial’ of Emi by the parent/ teacher association, followed by the verdict.

Jude’s trial called to mind other notable ‘film’ trial sequences: ‘M’’s trial in Lang’s M, and Joan’s trial in Dreyer’s ‘Passion of Joan of Arc’. In both these films, like Emi. the accused plead their own cause face to face with their accusers. In both these films the accused like Emi, were on trial in effect for qualities which were intrinsic to them, on trial for their moral character. The difference in BLB is that Emi’s trial is alternatively poignant and very funny, Jude’s script seamlessly moving through the gear changes relating to sex and hypocrisy.

Jude ends BLB on a verdict that finally leaves it up to the Gods of Cinema to intervene. In slapstick mode Emi turns into a Marvel super hero and with a giant phallus bludgeons everyone on set to death.

Jude shares with Goddard an elemental characteristic of film making: the pure joy in it. Neither uses the language of manipulation; they marshal the resources of cinema to create world that folds the audiecne into the possibilities of Cinema.

Adrin Neatrour

adrinuk@yahoo.co.uk

 

 

 

Author: Star & Shadow

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