L Movie Review 1The Romanian New Wave’s preeminent bad-boy muckraker, its Carpathian morph of Godard and Hunter S. Thompson, Radu Jude lobs yet another holy hand grenade at the world, but as always tosses it straight up, letting his home nation take the shrapnel. Bearing an expansively sardonic, chin-out title, not unlike his countryman’s Cătălin Mitulescu’s The Way I Spent the End of the World (2006), or Jude’s last two salvos, I Don’t Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians (2018), and the still-translation-vexed Bad Luck Banging, or Looney Porn (2021), Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World is less a slice of crafted narrative movie-ness than a launch of spirited derision, all middle fingers and wagging tongues.

Romania might be the most fecund moviescape in the world right now, usually returning again and again to what was immediately, in the early ’00s, a resonant stylistic brand: ultra-gritty slow-burn miserablism, in which individual tribulations organically reflect a post-Communist national plight. Except that’s not Jude’s mojo — he’s a die-hard Godardian in spirit, and his movies are living, unstable, comical things, open to essay-like digressions and self-reflexive gags and irresponsible political mockery so in your face your nose bleeds. You can feel the man sitting next to you, gabbing a blue streak, ordering more drinks, poking you with pickle forks, and daring you to try and draw a neat conclusion about what he’s made.

At the same time, you get the sense with Jude, and with many of his contemporaries, that there’s never a moment when the idea of not being utterly gimlet-eyed and bilious toward modern sociopolitics was an option — it’s how they define the medium’s relevance for themselves. Running 17 minutes short of three hours, Jude’s film is an all-you-can-eat slop-bar of jabs, jokes, and scandals, structured around a single frantic, traffic-choked workday for Angela (Ilinca Manolache), a tough, tattooed PA. Only gradually do we gather what her task is: to record “auditions” of a select number of industrial accident victims, only one of which will be selected for a workplace safety video commissioned by a “snobbish” Austrian company.

Shot in inky black-&-white, her long stop-&-go slog back and forth across Bucharest involves scores of pit stops, including a visit to the family cemetery with her mother (the grandparents’ graves are being moved to give way to a development project), and quick car sex with a booty call — all of it while wearing a defiantly inappropriate sequined cocktail dress. In between her chummy, cajoling visits with the string of damaged wheelchair-bound workers in their cramped flats, the rather ballistic Angela posts rabid TikToks of herself wearing a mustachioed porn-bro filter-face and spouting outrageously misogynist spiels about whatever’s on her mind (referencing Andrew Tate as a buddy, too). She’s a spirited and cynical modern heroine, a Jude avatar; after sex, she tells her boyfriend that once on a porn shoot she saw an actor fluff himself by looking at PornHub, which, she says, “struck me as apocalyptic.”

Jude’s oeuvre is allusion-dense, and this film is a patchwork Bucharest city-symphony, made like his last movie on the model of Godard’s Two or Three Things I Know about Her, with a traffic-jam nod to Weekend. Wait, there’s more: Angela’s odyssey through contemporary Romania’s crass capitalism and dick-swinging aggression is intercut with the travails of another Angela — the put-upon middle-aged cabbie-heroine (Dorina Lazar) of the full-color 1981 romance-drama Angela Moves On, whose parallel always-driving work life has her glancing off one disappointing man after another.

So quite naturally, Lazar, a busy actress for a half-century, with roles in Lucien Pintille’s The Oak (1992) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Youth Without Youth (2007), shows up as the now-aged other Angela, the mother of one of the interviewees, her life story drawn from the older film, as if the footage we see of one film were the memory flashback of the other. Godard might’ve agreed; Jude even Zapruder-izes the older film’s footage, slowing it down and atomizing it frame by grainy frame, as though looking for historical clues but finding only mysteries, like the hero of Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1969), also explicitly evoked.

Jude’s historical and cultural appetites are addictive, and his angry humanism is beautiful. But you still don’t expect him to end up where he does, with a climactic, unmoving, bravura 35-minute single take of the workplace-safety ad in production, with the off-screen crew gradually shredding the on-screen accident victim’s life story into meaningless hamburger. As an unflinching ordeal by satire, it could hardly be bested.















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