Pornographic justice. That’s how actress Katia Pascariu describes the show-stopping finale of Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn, a Romanian sex satire that not only ranks among the finest films of the past year but boasts the most satisfying ending of any movie in recent memory.

Directed by Radu Jude, the film—which is now available on-demand—follows Emi (Pascariu), a history teacher at a prestigious Romanian school. Emi is generally well-regarded by her students and the community—that is, until her husband uploads a sex tape featuring the two of them to an adult fetish site, which is then mirrored on Pornhub and a variety of tube sites. Once school administrators and parents catch wind of it, a scandal erupts, and Emi is made to attend a sprawling parent-teacher conference that more closely resembles an inquisition.

“The film is not necessarily about sex or sexuality, but how the image construction of this sexual reality gets into contact with the other layers of society—be it politics, the sociological realities, the historical realities,” says Jude.

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn was shot on the streets of Bucharest in the summer of 2020 and incorporates the disturbing realities of pandemic life into its tale. Romania is among the least vaccinated countries in the west, with only 42% of its people receiving at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, despite having one of the highest death rates per capita of any country. Prior to her interrogation, we watch a masked Emi wandering about in a daze, bearing witness to people’s pandemic-fueled anxieties bubbling to the surface, be it a heated argument in the supermarket checkout lane or road rage.

“It’s even worse,” offers Pascariu. “I’m working at the Jewish State Theater, and there were some comparisons to the Holocaust. So, things can get even more sinister. What happened very bad for us in the pandemic, and all the political, social, and economic discussions connected to it, is it made an open path for the extremists—the far-right. It helped them a lot, and it still helps them today.”

Jude has earned a reputation in his native country as a renegade filmmaker not afraid of shedding light on the darker aspects of its history, be it Ceaușescu’s cruel communist dictatorship (Uppercase Print) or the Romanian slaughter of Jews during the Holocaust (I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians). In Bad Luck Banging and Loony Porn, which won the Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear but was foolishly overlooked by the Academy, he sets his sights on modern-day sexism and nationalism.

During the parent-teacher conference, Emi is forced to sit in silence as everyone watches (and ogles at) the sex tape and is then subjected to a host of indignities from the incensed group of parents—a fascistic airline pilot, a Romanian Army general, a priest, a so-called “nice guy” who uses false allyship to try and hit on her and more. The leader of the witch-hunt—who repeatedly brands Emi a morally-bankrupt “whore”—is none other than a woman who’d once offered her bribes in order to secure better grades for her simple-minded daughter.

“You see this kind of misogyny and this kind of patriarchal society on all kinds of levels,” explains Pascariu. “And you see that it’s women that are internalizing this. The only way to live in our society is to accept the rules of a patriarchal society, so they were leading—in a way—this task force against Emi. It’s great that it’s so well-captured but sad that it’s so realistic, in a way.”

The incensed crowd also resembles a social media mob—hurling insults, concocting wild stories (the mother claims her daughter said she no longer want to get married after watching the sex tape), assassinating her character, and even floating bizarre conspiracy theories, like accusing Emi of being paid by Soros.

“It’s a caricature but there’s something truthful in it,” maintains Jude. “Ad hominem attacks, changing the topic and getting back to other topics—this is the reason why I don’t ever comment on social media; I find it completely useless. You comment one thing and then someone says something else, and you have to answer back to that, and then someone attacks you about something from two years ago, and it’s such a waste of energy and time.” He adds, “When somebody’s accused of something on social media, all of a sudden everybody believes it, and starts sharing on it, and commenting on it, and there is a little bit of that dynamic, which represents attitudes you can find in the middle class of the Bucharest people.”

Now about that ending—or rather, endings. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn presents three possible conclusions. In the first, the parents vote for Emi to stay on as a teacher—prompting the mother to attack her. The second scenario sees her voted out and quietly resign. And the third has Emi transform into Wonder Woman, lassoing the crowd in a giant net before violently face-fucking each of her tormentors with a gigantic dildo.

When somebody’s accused of something on social media, all of a sudden everybody believes it, and starts sharing on it, and commenting on it, and there is a little bit of that dynamic, which represents attitudes you can find in the middle class of the Bucharest people.

When I ask Jude why he included all three endings—he actually axed a fourth involving Emi reading from a fiery resignation letter—he laughs.

“I’ve had very elaborate answers to that—that the film has the structure of a sketch, so it has to have endings that aren’t definitive—but now I can offer you the real and very honest answer to that question, which is: I didn’t know how to end the film!” he says. “So, in the end I said, well, we can put in all of them because I cannot choose!”

It’s the third ending that has, of course, received the most attention—and rightfully so. Donning Wonder Woman’s iconic red bodice, blue skirt and golden tiara, and armed with one of the biggest dildos you’ve ever seen, she is the living embodiment of feminist rage, exacting her vengeance on this group of hateful misogynists. To call it satisfying is an understatement.

“No one got hurt!” exclaims Pascariu.

Katia Pascariu as Emi in Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn

Magnolia Pictures

“It was a kind of revenge-fantasy, but in a campy way with references to superhero movies—which I actually totally hate and dislike completely; I consider them extremely stupid films and never liked them—but I never imagined that it would create such an impact,” adds Jude. “It somehow hits a nerve.”

According to Jude and Pascariu, several of the actors even refused to have the dildo rammed down their throat on-camera, which the director honored.

“But I will never work with them anymore. Fuck them!” he shouts through laughter. “This also tells you something about our society: that some actors couldn’t get past some ideas, do their job, and see it as a job, and that’s sad.”

The angry parents of Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn brace for impact

Magnolia Pictures

Bad Luck Banging and Loony Porn ends with the priest receiving the worst of Emi’s “pornographic justice,” as the camera captures her ramming the dildo down his throat in close-up before freeze-framing on his stunned face. It seems like, well, a pointed commentary on Jude’s feelings toward the church.

“My hostility is toward the church as an institution,” he explains. “They took part in the Holocaust, in a way; in the fascist regimes; and, although they pretend to be a victim of communist dictatorships, they were hand-in-hand with Ceaușescu and the dictators. And after the revolutions, they somehow became more and more powerful as a reactionary force… Their presence on the political side, they shouldn’t be there. I think we live in a society where the state and the church should be totally separated.” He pauses, and chuckles. “It’s also an inside joke that Gabriel Spahiu, who played [the priest], always has a rough time in my films. He’s a very nice guy and very passionate with a strong sense of humor.”

For Pascariu, though, the ending is imbued with a sense of melancholy.

“It is a very refreshing end to the film and to the story. It gives you a lot of satisfaction,” she says. “But at the same time, it’s very sad that this one is the unrealistic end. You couldn’t have a realistic happy end to the story, so you had to have a fantastic one.”



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