A schoolteacher walks through her hectic city. Cranes descend in the middle of traffic; monster trucks sit parked in the middle of pedestrian walkways and parking lot entrances; men accost her, smile at her, yell at her. Still, her internal weather is stormier.

A hardcore sex tape, featuring history teacher Emi (Katia Pascariu) and her husband Eugen (Stefan Steel), is circulating amongst her students. She and Eugen uploaded the tape to a private adult fetish site, perhaps naively thinking that in the year 2021 thirteen year-old boys would never have accounts there. She prepares for a meeting with parents where her fate as an educator will be decided. This is Romanian director Radu Jude’s eighth feature film, the simultaneously raunchy, radical, satirical, and philosophical Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn.

A lot of attention will probably be given to the amount of unsimulated sex in the film, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and is Romania’s entry for best international feature at the 94th Academy Awards. In one humiliating, darkly comedic scene, Emi stares ahead as her students’ parents watch her sex tape on an iPad held up next to her. What we see is fairly comprehensive. But what’s most astonishing about Bad Luck is the argument Jude mounts against nationalism and tradition, and the manner in which he uses film as a medium to take major risks in sustaining that argument.

The film’s second act is a long montage sequence in which Jude provides various definitions and commentary on a slew of words, signs, and symbols from, “blow job” to “rape” to “racism” to “fiction” to “climate change” to “children.” (The text reads, “Children are political prisoners of their parents” as footage of Romanian kids singing a pro-war song plays.) Midway through this part of the film, I saw a few people walk out of the screening room. Ostensibly, they did not want to be lectured.

Jude is not proselytizing, but participating in his own filmmaking process—and not only as an orchestrator or writer, but as a citizen. His investment in his film’s ideas and arguments (many of which are odious: parents spout anti-Semitic and deeply misogynistic talking points, casually using slurs as if they are polite language, and ironically apologizing to the one Black parent in the room—who says, “No problem. I understand”), matches the urgency with which he wants the audience to take them seriously even though the film is structured as an elaborate joke.

Fascism lives on—and Jude provides concrete proof, using archival footage, research, and fictionalized representations of the oppressive ideas and practices many Romanians accept or embrace, from beating maids and Roma people to assaulting a woman while intoxicated. Pascariu, in a deeply vulnerable yet almost screwball role, resists playing Emi as purely reactive. We can see her thinking and responding, struggling to stay present and answer the parents’ chides and provocations while staying true to her values. She knows she hasn’t done anything wrong, but she must defend herself not according to the facts of her situation, but against an entire culture. So she lies and says the IT guys at a repair shop leaked a video, and then privately tells the headmistress, a friend, that it was Eugen who put it up.

According to press notes, the idea for the film came from debates Jude had with friends about cases in which actual teachers saw their amateur porn videos leaked online. The film also allows Jude to address another hot topic: Bad Luck Banging takes place during the pandemic, and constantly acknowledges the lived reality of the crisis, with characters spouting conspiracy theories and justifications about it at every turn. During the parent-teacher meeting, for instance, one parent yells at the headmistress to adjust her mask so it fits properly over her nose.

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