The Films of Bruce LaBruce
With a fabricated Warholian moniker, Bruce LaBruce made a name for himself (literally and metaphorically) in the late eighties in the LA D.I.Y. punk scene. As an influential 'Ziner and Super8 filmmaker, LaBruce gathered a healthy following of people who, like him, were fed up with the flaccid politics of bourgeois homo culture. Seeking to bridge the gap between punk and queer-core, LaBruce's art/porn films present queer culture with a slap-in-the-face style critique of its own hypocritical tendencies.
LaBruce's first feature film, No Skin Off My Ass is the story of a hairdresser who falls in love with a skinhead. Made with the generous assistance of Dennis Cooper, the film was shot on extremely grainy black and white film which impressionistically contrasts the blase violent chic of the film. LaBruce's portrays the shallow skinhead fetishist who takes in a skinhead off the street. The outcome is obvious, but that's sort of the point, and the aesthetic potency of the film, combined with slice-of-life quality of the acting which resembles the unreleased works of Araki in their flippant seriousness all combine to an odd amalgam of realism.
Super 8 1/2 is LaBruce's snarky reaction to the acclaim of No Skin. As I have not too long ago discussed, LaBruce presents us, in parodic neo-realist fashion, with porn actors and has been porn directors. It is a send up to success, "appropriation" (or ripping off to the layman), art and fags. LaBruce is a bitchy fag who wants more than anything to be Andy Warhol. The aphorisms are top rate with lines like "I feel so joy division." The film also features cameos from a creepy but kinda sexy Richard Kern (donning a strap-on, no less) and the diva Vaginal Cream Davis. It is, fittingly, a film about the trappings of celebrity or how deluded someone can become when superstar, at one point or another, accompanies their name, and how that title is everything to those who have never earned it. Whole scenes of the film are ripped straight out of more classical 60's and 70's Hollywood narratives, but, in the context which LaBruce presents them they become vital and renewed.
Alongside Madonna's justify-my-lover Tony Ward, LaBruce's pseudo-doco Hustler White about a faggy filmmaker who wants to document hustler life on the Sunset strip. The film parrodies the absurdity of typical Hollywood narrative and the neutered queer films who have modeled themselves after the hetero Hollywood structure. It is LaBruce's most bleak film, featuring a frightening performance by queer performance artist Ron Athey who channels his inner Leigh Bowery. This, more than No Skin off My Ass, is a similar world to the writings of Dennis Cooper. The world depicted here is one of lonliness and cruelty. It is a world apethized by AIDS. Desire is manifest in Ward who is actually idealized in an odd narrative way. It is a delightfully shocking film. Don't miss the amputee stump fucking scene! It's one of those things that make you cover your mouth and squeal, "No he di'nt!"
Skin Flick is, sadly, a bit of a disappointment. For funding purposes, LaBruce started a relationship with a German Porn company. They fund the film and LaBruce yields two cuts: a hardcore porn film and a Film film. This is a film ruled more by the former, rather than the latter and re-explores the familiar territory of No Skin off my Ass but sadly, explore is not the correct term here as nothing is really added to the original social critique established in the first film. In fact, a lot of complexity is lost on LaBruce who seems more interested in making a legit porno than a Film film. Because of the anti-nostalgic quality of video (the medium on which these films are shot) it comes off (at least the Film film cut of it) as an edited porno, rather than an interesting film, proper. But this approach would work wonders in the film that followed.
The Raspberry Reich is awesome. With a renewed vitality and finer production qualities, LaBruce unleashes perhaps his best film to date. Part political propaganda, part political satire, part music video, part porno, The Raspberry Reich is a hilarious portrait of political nostalgia. I plan on writing about it more thoroughly in the not-too-distant future, so I won't go on and on here. Instead I will post pictures to motivate you to see it, and remember, "The Revolution is My Boyfriend!"