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A Director Brings the Chaotic Vibe of TikTok to the Big Screen


During a recent Zoom interview with Radu Jude, the acclaimed Romanian director of “Don’t Expect Too Much From the End of the World,” he offered insight into his creative process. He pulled out one of the books he’s been reading, an illustrated tome on commedia dell’arte. Then he shared his screen to reveal a collection of text and images – Van Gogh still lifes, Giacometti sculptures, Japanese haikus – saved in folders on his computer. Jude stopped scrolling at a photo he had taken of a sign posted at the entrance of a building.

“It says ‘Please perform oral sex so as not to disturb the other tenants,'” Jude explained, translating from Romanian with a smile on his face.

Self-taught Jude is not above a dirty joke. His work blends tragedy and farce, drawing inspiration from art, literature, street advertisements and social media to fuel his bold visions of Romanian history and contemporary life.

Jude’s previous film, winner of the Golden Bear “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn“, begins with the making of a humorous and botched sex tape and ends with a witch trial against one of the tape’s participants. His latest film, “Don’t Expect Too Much From the End of the World,” arrives in American theaters on Friday.

The dark comedy follows Angela (Ilinca Manolache), a film production assistant who spends most of her 16-hour shift in her car, shuttling clients and equipment around Bucharest, the Romanian capital. One of Angela’s assignments is to interview former factory workers who were injured on the job for the chance to be featured in a company safety video. Present-day scenes, shot in black and white, interweave with colorful clips of another woman named Angela: a taxi driver in the 1980s, also chained to a thankless job of navigating the streets of Bucharest.

Jude, 46, was born and raised in Bucharest and lived under the communist dictatorship of Nicolae Ceausescu. After graduating from film school, he cut his teeth in the Romanian film industry in the early 2000s directing commercials and corporate films. Exploitation on these plateaus was commonplace, Jude remembers.

“Romania was a haven for international productions from around the world because of the filming locations and cheap labor,” he said: ridiculously long working hours were expected. “At the time I thought it was romantic and part of cinema mythology,” Jude added. “Then I remember hearing about a guy who was pushed to work without sleep: ‘Just one more Coke, one more Red Bull.’” The man eventually died in a car accident.

Manolache said Jude asked him to watch Andy Warhol films and performances by Nico of “The Velvet Underground” to infuse his gig economy workaholic with punk energy. The character’s sequinned dress and constant gum-chewing help give off that thug vibe, but her outlaw behavior comes across more powerfully when she plays Bobita, an online alter ego that Manolache has created independently of the film, but which appears in frenzied explosions. throughout it.

Bobita is summoned when Angela posts videos of herself with a filter that resembles Andrew Tate, the online personality currently facing extradition from Romania for sex crimes, and performs vulgar monologues that seem like mockeries of the influencer’s misogynistic speeches. Manolache said she hadn’t heard of Tate when she debuted the character Bobita on social media in 2021, and was actually inspired by Miranda July’s Instagram performances and by his own frustrations with the Romanian culture of toxic masculinity. Although some family members and colleagues were dismissive of Bobita, Manolache said, Jude was a fan of her sleazy satire and invited her to direct his new film.

“Most big artists don’t see what’s valuable about TikTok,” Manolache said. “They dismiss it and call it a weird subculture. This is what is rare about Radu and what makes him such a modern voice.”

During the Zoom, Jude took out his phone and presented his TikTok feed to the camera. It showed an older woman doing a workout, then a hen who allegedly survived a dog attack. “They have a certain beauty,” he says. “Here you can see people and places that you don’t usually find in Romanian cinema. Why aren’t they in the movies? I often have the impression that cinema is behind TikTok. He is not familiar with these expressions of life.

For much of his career, beginning with his first feature film in 2009, “The Happiest Girl in the World” – about a provincial teenager forced to appear in a soda commercial – Jude was considered part of of the “Romanian New Wave” of filmmakers. united by their social-realist perspectives and working-class subjects. Although several Romanian New Wave directors (like Cristian Mungiu and Cristi Puiu) became film festival heavyweights in the mid-2000s, Jude did not gain international recognition until 2015, when he won an award at the Berlin Film Festival for his 19th-century picaresque film. , “Aferim!”

Dorota Lech, Central and Eastern European cinema programmer at the Toronto Film Festival, said the label “New Wave” has become outdated. Either way, Jude’s constant reinvention, she added, makes him too dynamic a filmmaker to fit into a single box. “He’s a true artist in a sea of ​​paint-by-numbers content creators,” Lech said via email. He “can be rude,” she added, “but he can also confront anyone on any subject.”

Some critics have drawn parallels between Jude and the French author Jean-Luc Godard – another fiercely political artist who played with the tools of new media – but Jude was coy about the comparison.

He admitted that, like Godard, he was tired of “discovering the beauty in all kinds of images” (although he noted that Robert Rauschenberg, John Cage and John Dos Passos did so too) and added that he planned to shoot his next film on an iPhone precisely because the format is considered uglier.

“When we read a history book, we only remember a few traces or details. This is how cinema works. All of a sudden, the details jump out and become cinematic. An Instagram page can be cinematic. A reflection in a puddle. You have to push cinema in new directions, make it impure and ruin it to be able to see these little details.

“I’m just calling attention to what’s there,” he said. “Maybe that means I’m not a serious filmmaker.”

In fact, several of Jude’s films – like his next feature, an adaptation of Dracula – started out as jokes. “I was presenting a new project to some producers and they weren’t enthusiastic. Then I said to one of them, “Well, I’m from Transylvania, so I also have a project about Dracula,” which I didn’t do. So he was very interested. Then – unsurprisingly, given Jude’s free, improvisatory spirit – he thought, “Why not?”


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