The 13th Floor

The Perverse Cinematic Legacy of Artist Bruce LaBruce

Like most people, my interest in all-things-forbidden started in my early teens, following a late-night viewing of Russell T. Davies’s (DOCTOR WHO, CUCUMBER) groundbreaking UK TV show QUEER AS FOLK. The first show broadcast in Britain (Europe?) that offered viewers a realistic depiction of gay male lives and sex. Davies had engaged with what the viewing public largely considered taboo and sexually explicit, and enraged readers of The Daily Mail (British tabloid not worth your time or effort). He got people talking candidly about the realities of sexual minorities on an international scale (there was a successful American reboot, too).

The point I’m trying to make is that our culture has always understood that monstrosity is an essential facet of human existence. We’ve become used to the unbridled sadism on the news, as one fan pointed out in THE ADVOCATE FOR FAGDOM; sex still has that “dirty word” connotation, and culturally we’re more tolerant and accepting of violence. Sexuality remains an element of (some of) our lives that we’re actively encouraged to be ashamed of,  to fear and never to celebrate provocatively.

The following director has established that the controversial components of sexual difference are worth embracing.

Operating on the fringes of queer horror and art is underground writer/director Bruce Labruce: the king of pop art, porn and political rhetoric. The enfant terrible and cultural anti-hero has been shocking, turning on (or off) and provoking audiences with his hellacious hedonism and artistic deviance since emerging as a cult figure in filmmaking and the alt-art circuit back in the 1980s.

Taking a punkish, anti-assimilation stance, his films’ left-field concepts collide with kink and a Warhol-esque sensibility that tackles notions of masculine identity, sex, the cult of homo-normativity and queer conservative values.  The prolific artist’s work stands in direct opposition to traditional cinematic style, artistic form and sexual conformity with the influences of Andy Warhol and Jean Genet permeating the narratives of his blood-slicked skin flicks.

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The award-winning filmmaker hails from Ontario, Canada — a once-quiet farmboy — and was, by his own admission, introverted and bookish in his earlier years. By adopting the moniker (after a 1930s arsonist) Bruce LaBruce, he was able to develop a more courageous (and outrageous) identity — a personal armor that would help him generate an amazing body of work that lead him to become a trailblazer in both politics and art. Alongside his partner-in-crime, G.B. Jones, he put together and distributed  J.D.s (Juvenile Delinquents), an influential zine that made a considerable impact across the multiple-platforms of Queercore — an alternative-to-punk-punk-queer movement with a grunge philosophy and DIY aesthetic that incorporated music, sexual provocation and art-terrorism.

Nothing was sacred in LaBruce’s cinematic output — and with all sexual fetishes and the humanity behind the amputee porn, the BDSM, gang-bangs, zombie-sex and myriad other paraphilias placed under his spotlight.

There are voices in pop culture deemed transgressive by the mainstream for their investigations into provocative subject matter — those who transcend what is morally palatable and regarded as “safe,” and who navigate fearlessly through the outer reaches of the entertainment spectrum: Kathy Acker’s found-art approach with the controversial BLOOD AND GUTS IN HIGH SCHOOL; Lydia (PARADOXIA, THE GUN IS LOADED) Lunch and Virginie (BAISE-MOI) Despentes with their aggressive feminist proselytizing; Gus (MY OWN PRIVATE IDAHO) Van Sant and Gregg (MYSTERIOUS SKIN, THE DOOM GENERATION) Araki examined the psychological fallout within feral teen subcultures of sex work, addiction and abuse from a male perspective. Gasper Noe’s searing IRREVERSIBLE addressed rape culture and the futility of revenge with a reverse-narrative storytelling device; and David Cronenberg has utilized body-horror staples with a grotesque and thought-provoking elegance for decades.

The difference between Bruce and his contemporaries is that, like John Waters, he injects his pornographic tableau with a sense of fun and lots of black comedy.

Misandrists

THE MISANDRISTS

Ever wonder what the female version of misogyny is? Me too: it’s misandry! Filmmakers know that government funding is a slow process, which restricts creative control and could sway a film’s final edit to its detriment. THE MISANDRISTS is LaBruce’s crowd-funded and bonkers tale that concerns a militant group of feminist sexual revolutionaries aiming to build a murder-happy matriarchal order to subjugate men. The director worked with Amard Bird, a radical Berlin-based production company, and an almost entirely female-crew for his anarchist-femme exploitation film. He also put the film together in less than six months.

OTTO

OTTO: OR UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE

George (DAWN OF THE DEAD) Romero meets Michele (CEMETARY MAN) Soavi in LaBruce’s anti-consumerist, existential slice of zombified Gornography! In OTTO: OR UP WITH DEAD PEOPLE, the creepy absurdist humor and avant-garde visuals are reminiscent of Mario Bava and Lucio Fulci at their most outlandishly bloody and baroque. Exquisite corpse Otto (Jey Cristar) is a love-struck zombie who only wants to find and (perhaps?) eat his boyfriend, with a little help from Medea Yarn (Katharina Klewinghaus), a porn filmmaker whose specialist subjects are (of course) necrophilia, pornography and reanimation. OTTO was a reaction to the sanitized, male-dominated and class-oriented projection of the ideal gay male aesthetic/gay men as a commodity, and those of us who don’t fit into this body-image/class category. To die for!

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THE PORN DIARIES by Bruce LaBruce

This new “pornlogue” memoir, published this year, is a warts-and-all account of the schlockmeister’s quest through the world of underground sleaze and debauchery. The coffee-table tome would be an ideal ice-breaker at family functions, or help you get past that initial-awkward-conversation-phase with a new work colleague. You might even make a new friend, impressed by your in-depth knowledge of alternative sexual culture… or you might get a restraining order.

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HUSTLER WHITE

Immersive and arguably a tad corrupt is HUSTLER WHITE. If you happen to see a Dennis Cooper-like character strutting down Hollywood Boulevard in white pants and a tight wife-beater, the odds are he is a hustler and on-the-beat. Madonna’s ex-boyfriend, a 20+ gang-bang with a Twink-ish guy, male hookers and hustlers and Johns in sunny Los Angeles.

And finally…

LETHAL AMOUNTS presents BRUCE LABRUCE RETROSPECTIVE (In Los Angeles)

Check out the official Facebook page for this retrospective show, which is slated for Friday, July 16 at 8:00 PM Pacific Time.

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