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Claus Mueller

Claus Mueller is  Senior New York Correspondent

He is based in New York where he covers the festival scene, professor at Hunter University, accredited member of the Foreign Press Center,  U.S. Department of State NY.


Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Babardeală cu bucluc sau porno balamuc), Romania, Radu Jude, 2021

Directed by Radu Jude who also wrote the screenplay, his 2021 feature BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONEY PORN is an extraordinary satirical exploration of the socio-political problems of post-modern society using Romania as a case study. Produced this year, it received the Golden Bear at the 2021 Berlinale as the best film. From most perspectives, BAD LUCK is superior to many features at other major festivals which also selected Jude’s film. Radu Jude has a compelling and uncompromising story, mixing fiction, documentary, and archival footage. He counters the frequently observed inability of filmmakers at effective storytelling and overcomes this void. Jude’s story is original, embedded in creative narrative architecture. The acting, precise cinematography, editing, and montages are exemplary. As presented by Jude, the interactions in which we live everyday continue to decline into hypocrisy, deceptions, isolation, and decaying normative standards. In our computerized societies we live fragmented lives no longer bound firmly by social ties.

The film’s introductory sequence sets the story, featuring Emi Clibiu, played by Katia Pasariu, a history teacher in an elite school, and her husband, featuring them in an amateur sex tape they produce which accidentally gets into public  porn site and  concludes with a trial by the enraged parents of Emi’s students who watched the video at home or in school settings.

Of central importance in the film are two segments. Going from home to the hearing in her school, Emi takes a long walk through different sections of Bucharest, sharing with the viewer what she sees and hears. A decaying fragmented cityscape without a clear architecture, many decrepit buildings, and some ruins, mixed in with old and new structures. Many advertising images that propagate the good consumer life are on view in an active street life with people rushing around. We listen to truncated dialogs by people scorning and cursing each other, expressions of anxiety, observing openly rude behavior, as well as sexist and superstitious statements that make the viewer become, like Emi, part of the street's minidramas. This is a world characterized by antagonism, the absence of visual harmony and interpersonal community. An equally strong segment follows a collection of anecdotes, signs, and brief TV clips. In this superbly assembled mélange, Jude confronts us with an encyclopedia of facts, statistics, and rapidly moving visual elements including images of an alternative Rumanian newspaper from August 1944 headlined “Long Live Stalin” and “Long Live Hitler”. News items from the second world war are visible like “the Einsatzkommandos killed 3000 Jews just in time to celebrate Christmas”. Others  depict views from Romania’s military and communist past as well as atrocities exerted on people. We see children singing “lets go to war” and learn from contemporary Romanian society that more than half of the respondents consider rape justified under certain conditions. In this consumer society, political images are used to commodify brands of popular products. Some Romanians claim to be happy to be back home because they can freely beat up people there. As Jude notes, “We cannot see horrors because they blind us, but we can watch the images copying them like cinemas”.

Life is shown through bizarre statements and striking satirical scenes reinforced by juxtapositions of images and texts with material from many countries  They all reflect   ignorance of what happened in the past and what is going on now. Jude suggests  that we are oblivious to our past and present and have been living in a society  characterized by violence, ruptures, and absurdity. In the next segment Emi faces the investigation by parents deciding on her career and she provides eloquent answers to all questions raised with much of her parental audience revealing a perverse hypocrisy. They represent a cross-section of the Bucharest bourgeoisie, civil servants, a priest, a pilot, a uniformed military officer, but also well-educated individuals. Some parents drop their masks of civility in the spirited exchange. They articulate opposition to females and gender emancipation. Some parents reject Jews and Israel, support conspiracies, ignore basic social issues, are emotionally linked to the reactionary Romanian past, and admire authoritarian rule. Emi is accused of being paid by the Israeli Mossad [secret service]  but also of being a communist. There is no response to her observation that 60% of Romanian children are subjected to violence and that developing thinking is more important for children than getting high grades. The parents are obsessed with the  academic success of their children and prospective upward  mobility but  refuse to engage in any reflections about their emotionally charged stereotypical preconceptions or intelligent debate. Half of the parents vote to terminate Emi because she is a disgrace for the school and a threat to the reputation of their kids. Radu Jude offer s strong indictment of his society but his observations apply to  most  postindustrial societies.

Claus Mueller, New York





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