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‘Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn’: Expecting Failure, Radu Jude Felt ‘Free as Possible’ to Make His Pandemic Sex-Tape Comedy

The filmmaker behind the Romanian Oscar entry unpacks his wild, raucous, and totally original comedy to IndieWire.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

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After his last two features failed to gain much traction, filmmaker Radu Jude knew there was a lot riding on his most recent project, “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn.” But rather than pushing him to make his style more palatable, the “empty space” created by the movies’ lackluster reception allowed Jude to tackle his next film with indifference to success or failure.

“If it’s more experimental, more daring, or more difficult, then its not necessarily to be on the spotlight … because my last two films were not so successful, a lot of our partners, producers or others, were somehow reluctant,” he told Eric Kohn in an interview you can watch above. “It seemed to me it was going to be the last film with reasonable financing. So I said ‘OK, let’s do it and be free with it and do whatever it is to please us and do it as free as possible.’ If they like it, OK, if not, that’s it. I expected it to be a complete failure.”

And it was far from a failure. The film premiered at Berlin in March, where it took home the festival’s top prize. It was later selected as the Romanian Oscar entry.

“Bad Luck Banging” is told in three parts: The first introduces Emi, a teacher, who is faced with blowback after a private sex tape she made with her husband is spread around the internet and her community. The concluding section puts Emi on trial in front of the school’s parents and teachers and offers three alternate endings. In the middle part, a montage depicts definitions and musings on everything from COVID-19 to the Romanian Revolution and sex.

Jude, who also wrote the film, said he got the idea from tabloid coverage of sex-tape scandals. The subject matter demanded he break free from traditional structure in order to do justice to the buffet of ideas such a subject offers. “It’s not the story itself which is interesting, but what’s behind the story — what are the associations, the connections with society at large with the politics, with the morals, with the concepts like rights, privacy and so on and so forth,” he said. “For this I needed a new structure, a new way, and I didn’t have it for years.”

He ultimately found inspiration while reading André Malraux’s “The Voices of Silence,” the French writer’s non-traditional work of art criticism. “At some point he mentions Delacroix, the painter, and how his sketches are somehow more important for our modern eye, which is after Picasso,” Jude said. “When you see the sketches of Delacroix, which he used only to prepare his paintings, the sketches themselves seem to us much more interesting and much more modern. All of a sudden I had an idea and I said ‘OK, what if I try to tell not a compact story, but make it a sketch of a story.'”

Before the pandemic, Jude, whose past films include historic works, said he craved making a documentary about contemporary life. The virus derailed that, and he got to work on “Bad Luck Banging.” In comparison to other films made in his country at the time, Jude said he did not want to erase one of the clearest visual signifiers of COVID-19.

“If the film is contemporary and is more or less realistic and it’s about the life around. On the contrary, I don’t want to hide it. I wanted to make it part of the film,” he said.

The movie features many characters in masks throughout, which he said did have the intended effect of tying the movie to contemporary times, as well as helping protect his actors. But the mask-wearing also contributed to a sense of surreality, he said. Shot early in the pandemic, Jude sought out masks with messages on them for his actors to wear, including one that says “I can’t breathe,” a reference to some of the last words spoken by George Floyd before he was killed by police.

“They became an anthropological study, these masks,” he said. “Because I believe the film is a film of details, all these details became important.”

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