Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (CREDIT: Magnolia Pictures)

Starring: Katia Pascariu, Claudia Ieremia, Olimpia Malai, Nicodim Ungureanu

Director: Radu Jade

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: Unrated (But Do Know That It Gets Pretty Explicit)

Release Date: November 19, 2021 (Theaters)

Every once in a while, a movie breaks itself up into chapters via on-screen intertitles, but rarely can I ever discern much of a difference between those chapters, thematic or otherwise. But finally a film has come along with some clear reasons for the delineation. It has emerged out of Romania, and it goes by the name of Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (or Babardeală cu bucluc sau porno balamuc, if you prefer its native tongue). It has a fairly familiar premise: schoolteacher Emi (Katia Pascariu) makes a sex tape and then it’s accidentally discovered by the people in her life. But I can guarantee you don’t know what’s coming next. The first section consists of Emi walking around town in the wake of the tape leaking; the middle is a montage of “definitions” of various words and concepts; and then it all wraps up in a heated and often hilarious parent-teacher conference.

It’s immediately clear that Bad Luck Banging is far from the typical American version of this story, in terms of its sexual explicitness and its patience. So much of the cinematography of the first third consists of lingering shots of buildings and streetscapes. In the most literal sense, this portion is just about how Emi gets from point A to point B. And point C. And points D and E and F. I eventually started to wonder if writer-director Radu Jade had been influenced by Birdemic. This section does also serve the purpose of presenting what Romanian society looks like in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which in a word is: RUDE! I sure hope it’s not always like that, as Emi’s day-to-day life is simply exhausting, in a way that has nothing to do with the sex tape.

The middle section is a grab bag of jokes and social commentary, and it’s really exciting to stumble across a movie that sticks some formal experimentation within a more traditional narrative structure. Another reason that it’s so exciting is because I don’t know what is going to pop up on screen on a second-by-second basis. And if I ever watch this movie again, that will still probably be true, because I haven’t remembered every single part of this section. If I had, I would’ve recounted them in detail to you fine readers of this review!

And finally, I guess I better talk about the last section, seeing as I talked about both of the previous sections. It’s only fair. During the parent-teacher conference, Emi is presented as the One Sane Woman amidst a phalanx of prudes, conspiracy theorists, and other nutcases. The crowd is understandably upset about what their kids have been exposed to, but they don’t seem very interested in finding a reasonable solution. Ultimately, this sequence is a Big Fat Plea to allow consenting adults to live their sex lives however they want to. And it’s playful throughout, particularly in a series of alternate endings that let the imagination run wild. Open-mindedness is useful for a number of reasons.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn is Recommended If You Like: Jean-Luc Godard, Watching private parts in public, Curb Your Enthusiasm

Grade: 4 out of 5 Sex Tapes