Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (R 18+, 106 minutes)
After whips, masks and explicit sex open the show, this argumentative, chaotic film from Romania sets off in various more unexpected directions.
A sightseeing trip through Bucharest is next up. Viewed in long shot, with slow pans up and down the streets, it's a bit like a walking tour or a documentary. The grand old Romanian capital with its beautiful grand facades decayed and crumbling, is in desperate need of a facelift, and the infrastructure is crying out for attention, with damaged roads and cracked pavements a general featuring of the streetscape.
The citizenry are understandably testy, getting into arguments at checkouts and on the street. As we overhear it out and about, nobody has quite enough to get buy.
Despite the issues of quality of life, this film by writer-director Radu Jude looks at the perversely funny side of things.
When some of the same language used in intimacy is heard on the street in arguments over parking on footpaths and when supermarket customers get stuck into each other over nothing while queueing at the checkout, we begin to see the perversity of life from a Romanian point of view.
Divided into three chapters the film works as social protest, bookmarked by the scandal of a teacher's sex video going viral on the internet. Although reputedly published on a restricted adults-only hub, "Porn Teacher" is particularly worrying for the headmistress and administration because students are watching it on their mobiles.
We understand that it wasn't Emi (feisty Katia Pascariu), but her husband Eugen (Stefan Steele) who is responsible for uploading it.
Penises, dildoes and vulvas reappear briefly and unexpectedly like interjections throughout the rest of the film, but after the opening scene and an intriguing archival version of same, that's about it. Depending on the slant of the viewer, the sex content here will be either an incentive or a disincentive.
After the first three minutes minutes of porn, the film goes wide with a critique of Romanian society on many levels. It's an omnibus of protest about the quality of political leaders, the intersection of private and professional life on the internet, the content of the school syllabus - in particular the teaching of history, something that other countries are wrestling with too.
There's the country's violent past, with the point about Ceausescu's palace representing slavery in the modern era, and the community attitudes reflected in startling advice from a chief of police for wives being beaten by their husbands. By no means is everything confined to the Romanian perspective.
So much comes in for a serve, it's a shame that the long montage in Chapter II hasn't been better handled. A wealth of fascinating material, archival and contemporary, is juxtaposed then snatched from view before the significance can take hold.
The old montage technique of colliding images has been brought into play in this a treasure trove of apparently random juxtapositions, but the disparate yet fascinating content still needs wrangling.
Far from being repentant, Emi hits back at her accusers as she faces the parents who will decide whether she should be allowed to keep her job. The meeting takes place in the school garden, as participants, socially distanced and wearing various kinds of masks, launch into proceedings overseen by the headmistress. She is not unsupportive of the teacher who has done nothing to this point but bring credit to the prestigious school.
During Chapter III, director Jude once again achieves a jolly absurdist perspective on the inquisition, as Emi faces her supporters and accusers in the final round. It's an interesting and relevant discussion, if only Emi weren't quite so dogmatic about her point of view.
The signs of the COVID pandemic, the mask-wearing and the sanitiser stations, are another overlay of absurdity in this expansive, cryptic social satire. It will have something for everyone about what is wrong with contemporary life, so long as they don't mind the occasional rude interjection.
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