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Radu Jude Wows Locarno

Ilinca Manolache in Radu Jude’s Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World (2023)

Since winning the Golden Bear in Berlin for Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn in 2021, Romanian director Radu Jude has made a handful of shorts, and now, another feature with a chewy title, Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World. The aphoristic line, which rings so true that Umberto Eco slipped it into his 1989 novel Foucault’s Pendulum, is lifted from a poem included in the 1957 collection Unkempt Thoughts by the Polish poet Stanisław Jerzy Lec.

Premiering in competition in Locarno and set to screen as part of the New York Film Festival’s Main Slate, Jude’s new film is “a dizzying, dazzling feat of social critique, an all-fronts-at-once attack on the zeitgeist, and a mischievous, often hilarious work of art about the artifice of work,” writes Jessica Kiang for Variety. “Funny and furious, crude and subtle, unkempt and thoroughly disciplined, this deranged movie is also maybe the sanest film of the year: a multifaceted manifesto exposing the absurd internalized fallacy that one must work in order to live, when it’s work—as in, the pitiless daily grind—that will be the death of us all.”

As Angela, an overtaxed production assistant, Ilinca Manolache, who first worked with Jude on I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018), delivers what the International Cinephile Society’s Matthew Joseph Jenner calls “one of the most outrageously funny and heartfelt performances of the past decade.” Deprived of sleep and downing energy drinks to keep from nodding off at the wheel, Angela zips through the clogged streets of Bucharest while Jude and editor Catalin Cristutiu splice into this grainy black-and-white footage clips from Lucian Bratu’s 1981 color feature, Angela Goes On, starring Dorina Lazar as a cab driver in the Romanian capital.

At the Film Stage, Leonardo Goi notes that “the two Angelas are both victims of bilious misogyny—men harass and humiliate them throughout, suggesting a fairly straightforward ‘as it was then, so it is still’ reading—but Jude’s after another, more provocative point. Time and again he slows down Bratu’s feature to draw attention to some everyday details of life under Ceaușescu’s tyranny that no other Romanian production of the time ever dared make public, fearing the regime and the censors’ retaliation: bread lines and other glimpses of the rampant poverty the country was mired in. Angela Goes On doesn’t just match Do Not Expect’s dioramic structure; it also echoes its rebellious spirit.”

The Angela of 2023 has been tasked with auditioning prospective subjects of a safety video commissioned by an Austrian firm whose head of marketing is coolly played by Nina Hoss. The employee eventually selected will be required to blame himself for his life-threatening injury rather than the company—in exchange for a modest fee. Angela grabs any chance she gets to blow off steam by shooting TikTok videos of herself as Bóbita, a bald and goateed misogynist who claims alleged rapist and human trafficker Andrew Tate as a close friend.

At Films in Frame, Bucharest-based critic Flavia Dima suggests that Do Not Expect is “perhaps Radu Jude’s bleakest, most critical film—and that’s saying something for the director [who] almost single-handedly revived public awareness of Romania’s history of enslaving the Roma people”—with Aferim! (2015)—“and its bloody involvement in the Holocaust” with I Do Not Care. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw describes Do Not Expect as “a continuous white noise of complaint about modern Romania: the degradation of its public space, the misery of its continuing infatuation with strong leaders, its racism, and its incompetent embrace of capitalism and the free market.”

Writing for the Film Verdict, Jay Weissberg points out that since his first feature, The Happiest Girl in the World (2009), Jude has “sought to combat willful ignorance, prejudice, and cruelty through films that masterfully balance gut-punches with side-splitting laughter: no other writer-director has such a creative ear for obscenity-laced dialogue.” Do Not Expect “can be considered a summation (but not a final chapter) of the themes he’s visited multiple times, in which his fury boils over to scald everything it touches . . . If the end of the world really is approaching, Jude may be our most trenchant Cassandra.”

Variety’s Christopher Vourlias reports that Jude’s next film, codirected with the philosopher Christian Ferencz-Flatz, is already in postproduction. Eight Postcards from Utopia will be a found-footage documentary pieced together from ads that ran in Romania during the years immediately following the end of the Ceaușescu regime. “These kinds of images offer the most fictionalized version of life, or society,” Jude tells Vourlias. “You can see in them all these tendencies regarding a market economy, capitalism, desires, the fetishism of the merchandise—sometimes in really ludicrous ways, sometimes absurd, sometimes dirty.”

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