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BERLINALE 2021 Competition

Radu Jude • Director of Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

“I consider all of my films to be essentially honest comedies”

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- BERLINALE 2021: The prolific Romanian director breaks down what is perhaps the naughtiest feature in this year’s competition

Radu Jude  • Director of Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
(© Silviu Ghetie)

Did he really do that? This may well be the viewer’s reaction a few minutes into the screening of Radu Jude’s aptly titled Berlinale competition entry Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Radu Jude
film profile
]
, which explores what happens after a respected middle-school teacher (Katia Pascariu) discovers that a sex tape she shot with her husband in the intimacy of their bedroom has shown up online. Here is what the director has to say about comedy, hypocrisy and classism.

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Cineuropa: While preparing the film, did you experience any reticence from Romanian film professionals? You hired a porn actor, Ştefan Steel, for the part of the husband, and I wondered whether your first choices for the part refused to be involved in the feature…
Radu Jude:
Actors and actresses refusing a part is something that does happen, and I have no issue with that. It’s ok; it’s normal. Anyone can decide what they want or absolutely don’t want to do in a film, and I accept it. We all have our limits, values and opinions, be they political or aesthetic. It only becomes annoying when someone doesn’t admit they have issues with this or that, and then, days into the shoot, they refuse to do what had been discussed very clearly from the beginning. Ştefan Steel was very good and very professional; it was a pleasure working together. The same goes for the actress who doubled for Katia Pascariu. I hope we will work together again.

How would you want your film to be received in an ideal world?
We don’t live in an ideal world, and I don’t want to live in such a world. As Jean Genet said, “Don’t ask me what world I would live in; I don’t want to live in a different world, I only want to be against it.”

Why was it important for the audience to watch the sex tape in the screenplay?
Because that video is the centre of the movie; everything revolves around it. I consider Bad Luck Banging… to be a montage film, as it invites the audience to make various connections and juxtapositions between the so-called obscenity of this video and the wider obscenity surrounding us, which is much more real and toxic. Moreover, I wanted to place cinemagoers exactly in the same position as the parents in the film. The relationship between cinema and voyeurism is already commonly accepted – Laura Mulvey wrote a fundamental essay on this matter, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”.

In the collage segment, you say that the silver screen is a surface that both reflects the horrors of humankind and makes them more bearable. Later on, you mention that contemplating our past invites only bleak considerations regarding our future. Would you say cinema is a tool for exorcising the worst side of humans?
The first quote is from [Siegfried] Kracauer, the second from [Walter] Benjamin. Actually, the entire second part of my film is a succession of quotes. I see cinema as a tool for better seeing the world and reality, a tool for exploring and reflecting on the world, using the devices specific to cinema: the camera and editing.

School and the values it sows in young minds are a central theme in your film. How can we stop schools from becoming conveyor belts churning imbeciles out into the world?
I have two children; I have attended many PTA meetings, and I find it quite interesting that when kids are the topic of conversation, the true values of their parents are immediately put on the table: their neurotic obsession with their offspring’s success (ie, the idiotic fixation on good grades), their racism, their classism, their philistinism and hypocrisy, their disdain for any matter they consider useless (and the arts are the big winners here). We have got used to saying that the education system is faulty because of the authorities, and this is true, of course, but I am afraid that many parents are more than eager to destroy what is left of the system. This is why the possibility that parents may be allowed to decide the specifics of the education process is quite frightening.

You have directed some of the bleakest Romanian features. Are you ever tempted to change direction and surprise your audience with an honest, unpretentious comedy?
With the exception of my non-fiction work, I consider all of my films to be essentially honest comedies. Maybe they are humourless, but they are comedies, if you will allow me this paradox. Even Balzac’s The Human Comedy was not that funny – you don’t laugh your arse off, as they say, while you’re reading it.

What is next for you?
I am working on three features, but I am not allowed to speak about them, as in Romania, we must keep quiet about the projects with which we plan to apply for funding from the Romanian National Film Center. I must say that I find it inadmissible that in 2020, this institution was not able to gather funds to organise even one project competition. It is true that we, Romanian filmmakers, didn’t react in any way, meekly waiting for the centre to take pity on us. Recently, while preparing a talk for the Berlinale’s European Film Market, I chatted on Zoom with several European producers, some of them hailing from Eastern Europe. They were truly shocked that there was no opposition to the way the centre has been treating [Romanian] filmmakers. “What do you mean? You, filmmakers with such huge recognition abroad, accepting some clerks taunting you like this? This would never happen in our countries,” they said. I admitted shamefully that, yes, we accept this treatment. And it’s obvious that we don’t deserve any better, as we are so stupid.

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