Romanian film review: Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn & Eden
Cinemas have opened in Bucharest and other cities, and they show two of the year’s most thought-provoking releases: Radu Jude’s Babardeală cu bucluc sau porno balamuc / Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn and Ágnes Kocsis‘ Eden.
Bad Luck Banging has been much-awaited, especially after its big win at the Berlin International Film Festival in March, and what a joy to have a chance to watch it in a cinema with others because it is a hoot. Jude’s comedy is a cheeky reckoning with the present times and the many local forms of prejudice and hypocrisy. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___
It follows a history teacher at a prestigious Bucharest school, Emilia (Emi) Cilibiu, after her sex video was uploaded online. The film is structured in three chapters. The first one features said video (boy, is everyone in for an explicit surprise here) and the heroine walking through the city on her way to a crisis meeting at school with parents via a stop at the headmistress. Anyone who has lived a while in Bucharest will both chuckle at the unflattering picture of a crammed, aggressive city and be instantly shaken by its memory because Bucharest traffic does not bring out the best in people. The pandemic with its restrictions and conspiracy theories makes the city even crazier and for the audience a fun, fast ride. Once Emi is at school, there is of trial by parents, where she not only has to defend her right to privacy and prove that her actions did not corrupt the poor children but she also has to fend off all possible attacks from a group of self-righteous, hateful, prudish, and downright stupid people. There is no problem left untouched here: racism, sexism, antisemitism, you name it. Emi keeps her cool throughout, and the film offers three possible endings to her ordeal. One of them is completely unleashed and bonkers, your jaw will drop and you will scream in laughter or horror, or both.
Sandwiched between these parts is a delightful glossary, a list of terms relevant for the film and generally for life. Jude is at his most sarcastic and unforgiving but also typically sharp and hilarious when he defines children as “the political prisoners of their parents”. This playful, erudite part is the film’s best bit, and it alone would make Bad Luck Banging a must-see. If the film is generally not the most subtle, particularly at the end, it is without a doubt smart and topical in every sense, even pandemic-wise. It is also very entertaining, a great film to kick off the new opening of cinemas.
Eden is a completely different experience, sombre and slow, but just as relevant. Its heroine, Éva, is a woman pained by severe, life-threatening allergies to everything surrounding her: pollution, chemicals, electronics. She can only leave the house in a sort of spacesuit and is cared for by her supportive but worn-out brother. When she goes to court to try to prove that these are the sources of her illness a psychiatrist is assigned to discuss the triggers for her allergies, i.e. prove they are purely psychosomatic to weaken her case. As Éva opens up to someone, things start to change irrevocably for her and her physician.
Ágnes Kocsis’ drama, a co-production between Hungary, Romania, and Belgium, is long and measured, with a cool aesthetic that is a homage to science-fiction, a looming mood, and excellent acting. It is also sensitive and empathetic but it remains curiously aloof and mostly impenetrable, a bit like its heroine. This might be intended, but does not help to make the film truly engaging. Eden is easier to admire in its precision and beauty than to love but without a doubt a perceptive cautionary vision of the world as it is and might be, and utterly topical in these pandemic-ridden times.
By Ioana Moldovan, columnist, email@example.com
(Photo info & credit: still from Bad Luck Banging and Loony Porn / © Silviu Ghetie / Micro Film 2021)