Wednesday, February 15, 2006

"I Feel So Joy Division"

So I made a bad assumption. I rented two "New Queer Cinema" movies from roughly the same time period ('92, '94) thinking, 'oh, I'll just write about them together.' Bruce would be so pissed.

In the visual work that I (sometimes) make, meta is a very integral quality: a knowledge of film history, and obsessive eye for minute cultural details, associations that may or may not come across in the work that I can see and thus figure everyone else in the world (or at least everyone with a brain) would see. Of course, this is seldom the case, and yet, this is the assumption that Rock Hudson's Home Movies rides on. The film is dry in the way that only the early works of the "New Queer Cinema" can be. It is a nostalgically analytic approach that is best epitomized in movies like Swoon and Finished (which actually came rather late in the chronology). Home Movies is a decent if not slightly longwinded regard of the homosexual subtexts in the films of Rock Hudson. Seeing things that aren't entirely always there, the film becomes desperately focused, but ultimately delivers a cohesive little musing on infatuation if nothing else. It's a genre that existed for a moment when it was most greatly needed, a read reiterated by its distribution by the disgracefully inept Water Bearer Films, which, if ever there was a Distribution company worthy of closure, it is this one. Water Bearer's transfers are absolutely horrific. Sadly holding the rights to most of Pasolini's films in the US, Water Bearer distributes pricey little discs which look like they've been transferred by drunk monkeys. Pasolini's Porcile is the worst of the lot, containing leader between reels and even accidentally swapping reel 6 & 7 towards the end of the film, presenting the film out of sequence. Rock Hudson's Home Movies is tranferred from video, but the sound shows Water Bearer's token neglect. It is an interactive film in the sense that you must constantly adjust sound levels every two minutes merely to discern the dialogue and at no point do we loose the aggravating tape hiss that DVD was to do away with. This imposes its unprecious approach (and here, a little preciousness is a good thing) to the film itself, suggesting it unworthy of a good (even decent!) transfer. As this may not be the case, it is a film which might disappear entirely after the HD DVD wave, or whatever the next format of distribution that takes off will be.

Nowhere near as forgettable, and yet without US DVD distribution (thanks a lot Strand Releasing!), Bruce LaBruce's Super 8 1/2 is a hilarious send up to stardom, worship and this era of trendy homos that was the "New Queer Cinema." The films stars Bruce LaBruce as Bruce LaBruce, faded art/porn auteur/actor. Googie, a fellow art/porn filmmaker who is as rising as Bruce is falling, decides to exploit Bruce for her capital gain, making a "Bruceploitation" flick about the life of a faded star. Of course, the film is by LaBruce, who pouts, saunters and imitates Warhol at his every step (even covering the walls of his loft apartment with Tin Foil, like the first Warhol Factory). A poster for Warhol's Blue Movie hangs just above the bed that LaBruce seldom rises from, and when he does it is to maudlinly reflect upon his better cock-sucking days. This film has a greater, again meta, energy than some of the early unreleased films of Gregg Araki, touting similar aphorisms. At one low point, LaBruce complains, "Why do I have to be such an Existentialist? Everyone says I am one except for my ex-Producer who says I'm a bourgeois Existentialist." A little later, he claims he stole a line, not as the critics claim, be cause he is deconstructing cinema or contemporizing historical moments, but "because I'm busy." The film, of course, takes this laziness in a very tongue in cheek manner. Entire sequences are stolen from other films, highlighted by the hilarious titles of LaBruce's porno films: I am Curious (Gay) and Pay Him as He Lays (after the Didion adaptation, Play It As It Lays)

Super 8 1/2 is a more complex creature than it presents itself as. Just like LaBruce's LaBruce, it is itself intentionally self-effacing in vital and hilarious ways. The film is a series of mock-neorealist sequences which echoes LaBruce's prior smash No Skin Off My Ass, but throws in a selfconscious and scathing critique not only that film, in fact, LaBruce's ouvre, but also those theorists (like myself) and critics that celebrated his works and made him the (not-quite) indie superstar that he had by this point become. As is usual with LaBruce's films, the film is peppered by extended pornographic sequences, perhaps most frequent here than in the rest of LaBruce's ouvre.

LaBruce's films have always been explicitly of their time. His latest (and perhaps best) The Raspberry Reich is already showing its 2004-ness, but not in a bad way. Like the Warhol Time Capsules, LaBruce's films epitomize that very moment in the subculture it presents. This allows the films to now accumulate further refinement in their debt to nostalgic. Super 8 1/2 is a very thoroughly crafted slice of early nineties D.I.Y. Homo/Punk culture. It is a time when fame and notoriety was far more easily achieved, and deserved. Without the specificity (and micropscoping sub-worlds) of the internet, people were more prone to make, and do it they did. Of course, glamorizing this time is not what I intend to do here, nor is it the intent of the film. In some ways LaBruce does this just as any early nineties queer film does. It is a scary time, but perhaps because everything was out there, on the plate. There was a more healthy approach to the subject matter. Unlike today, where everything is unsaid by hunky shallow pretty things who like to have lots of sex, yet never reflect upon the consequences, because now, film is about fantasy, where the "New Queer Cinema" was about therapy.


Blogger J said...

I Am Curious (Gay) -- brilliant.

8:31 PM  

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