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WATCH: Bruce LaBruce at MoMA

WATCH: Bruce LaBruce at MoMA


Censored, slandered, and delightfully outre, the films of Bruce LaBruce are now featured in a special program at MoMA. Anything is possible.


Canadian writer, filmmaker, and photographer Bruce LaBruce helped corrupt a whole new generation of queer kids with his radical, witty, and over-the-top films that have come to form the basis of the homocore or queercore movement of the early 1990s. This heir to the throne of Warhol and John Waters also cocreated one of the seminal zines of that period, JD. LaBruce proves if you live long enough and keep producing thought-provoking work, that eventually the museums and institutions that were appalled by your work will come around. Beginning Thursday and continuing through May 2, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City will be exhibiting LaBruce's films at the Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters. Check for more information and a schedule.

Lazombiex633_0L.A.Zombie, 2010, USA. With Francois Sagat, Rocco Giovanni, Wolf Hudson, and Eddie Diaz. Though it might at first seem more closely aligned with LaBruce's other gay zombie movie, Otto; or Up With Dead People, the director has described this film as a sequel to Hustler White, in that both pieces focus on the people who work the streets of Los Angeles, who live in the "seedy underbelly of dreamland." L.A. Zombie opens with what may be an undead alien, played by porn star Francois Sagat, emerging from the sea. Roaming wordlessly through the city, he encounters a variety of fresh corpses -- a gang member, a vagrant -- and humps them back into life like some sort of necrophiliac savior. Blending horror with XXX idioms, L.A. Zombie is a bloodbath with brains. 103 minutes.

Gerontophiliax633_0Gerontophilia, 2013, Canada. With Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, Walter Borden, Katie Boland, Yardly Kavanagh, and Marie-Helene Thibault. Asked about this recent film, LaBruce remarked that he "wanted to shock people by making a film that isn't shocking," and the work is indeed a departure for the artist. Well known for subversive depictions of sex, his taste for carnage, and an unsparing comic intelligence, LaBruce here offers a gentler, more compassionate form of transgression. Gerontophilia concerns a saintly young man working at an assisted living facility in Montreal who discovers that he is attracted to the extremely advanced in age, and an affair starts to blossom between him and one of the residents, a droll octogenarian. As elsewhere in LaBruce's filmography, desire resists easy classification. Like a queer Harold and Maude, the paramours ultimately escape from the carceral atmosphere of the retirement home and hit the road, revealing, in the process, something new and unexpected about the mysteries of affection. 82 minutes.

Hustlerwhitex633_0Hustler White, 1996, USA. Directed by Bruce LaBruce, Rick Castro. With LaBruce, Tony Ward, Kevin P. Scott, Ivar Johnson, Glen Meadmore, and Ron Athey. Hustler White, which LaBruce codirected with famed fetish photographer Rick Castro, begins with a man floating face-down in a jacuzzi. It's an image straight out of Sunset Boulevard, and the film is likewise a tale of obsessive desire on the margins of Hollywood. LaBruce stars in his own film once again, this time as the sardonic, queeny writer Jurgen Anger, who has come to California to pursue research for a book about sex workers. Upon arrival he becomes transfixed by one hustler in particular, whom he pursues throughout the film, and the directors pepper this chase with a series of remarkable vignettes that inventory all manner of sex-for-hire scenarios (cowboy role-playing, amputee fantasies, etc.). Filmed along Santa Monica Boulevard and in iconic hooker hangouts like the Yukon Mining Company, Hustler White is at once an unlikely romance and a raunchy ethnography of trick-turning. 79 minutes.

Noskinoffmyass_posterx633_0No Skin Off My Ass, 1991, Canada. With Bruce LaBruce, Klaus von Brucker, and G.B. Jones. Hailed by the critic Amy Taubin as "sweeter than Warhol, subtler than Kuchar, sexually more explicit than Van Sant," LaBruce's debut feature emerged during the efflorescence of queer cinema in the early 1990s. Shot in grainy Super 8, the picture centers around a hairdresser who falls for a handsome, taciturn skinhead, and their peculiar courtship is punctuated by memorable sequences with the skin's sister, a lesbian underground filmmaker with plans to make a movie about the Symbionese Liberation Army. No Skin Off My Ass is like That Cold Day in the Park replayed as a punk rock daydream, yet here Robert Altman's idiosyncratic thriller has become a lo-fi love story, featuring LaBruce as a swishy stand-in for Sandy Dennis. Now a homocore classic, No Skin is a complex exploration of how subculture is articulated through style, and a poignant study in erotic fascination. 73 minutes.

Offingjackx633_0Short Films of Bruce LaBruce
This screening offers a unique opportunity to view a selection of LaBruce's short-form work, including his early Super 8 movie I Know What It's Like to Be Dead, the Melanie Klein-inspired The Bad Breast, the Godard-inflected dance film Weekend in Alphaville, and Offing Jack (pictured above), his contribution to the porn omnibus Fucking Different XXX.
I Know What It's Like to Be Dead, 1989, Canada. With LaBruce, Rock Hudson, and Linda Evans. 15 minutes.
The Bad Breast, 2010, Canada. With Susanne Saschsse, Katharina Klewinghaus, and Vaginal Creme Davis. 20 minutes.
Weekend in Alphaville, 2010, Canada. With Edward Poitras and Robin Poitras. 21 minutes.
Offing Jack,2011, Canada. With Finn and Kay Garnellen. 14 minutes.

Ottox633_0Otto; or Up With Dead People, 2008, Germany. With Jey Crisfar, Marcel Schlutt, Katharina Klewinghaus, Guido Sommer. The zombie film, as imagined by moviemakers like George A. Romero, has long been heralded as a form rich with political potential, a fantasy of a world in which all existing social relations -- including capitalism -- have broken down. But LaBruce has given the genre a surprising and distinctive update with Otto, set in a not-too-distant future in which the undead (many of them gay) have evolved the ability to speak and reason, yet are persecuted by the living for being "an echo of their own somnambulistic, conformist behavior." The eponymous flesh-eater wanders the streets of Berlin until the eccentric experimental filmmaker Medea Yarn enlists him as a star in her zombie insurrection opus Up With Dead People. While Otto pieces together fragments of his previous,warm-blooded existence and struggles with unliving in the world, LaBruce's film develops into a savagely irreverent critique of consumer culture and a moving parable of alterity. 94 minutes.

Pierrotlunairex633_0Pierrot Lunaire, 2014, Germany. With Susanne Sachsse, Maria Ivanenko, Boris Lisowski, and Krishna Kumar Krishnan. Invited by the conductor Premil Petrovic to stage Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, a musical theater work from 1912 based on the poems of Albert Giraud, LaBruce transposed a strange and tragic episode of true crime onto the composition. Complementing the original atonal score is a narrative about a trans man who is outed by his girlfriend's father and forbidden to see the young woman again. Crestfallen, the protagonist decides to prove the fact of his manhood by castrating a taxi driver and then revealing his newly transplanted member to the two of them. This story, which for LaBruce "serves as a kind of allegory for all gender radicals and outcasts driven to extremes by the disapproval and hostility of the dominant order," is rendered in a visual style that nods to the era of Schoenberg's melodrama. LaBruce cheekily appropriates the formal vocabulary of silent cinema with black-and-white photography, irises, and intertitles like "A cock, a cock, my kingdom for a cock!" 51 minutes.

Raspberryreichx633_0The Raspberry Reich,2004, Germany. With Susanne Sachsse, Daniel Batscher, Andreas Rupprecht, and Dean Monroe, Anton Dickson. In LaBruce's mercilessly funny lampoon of terrorist chic, a group of leftist German radicals plot to kidnap the son of a wealthy banker, just as the Red Army Faction captured industrialist Hanns-Martin Schleyer and held him for ransom in 1977. The plot thickens when Gudrun, the leader of the cabal, proclaims that her straight male comrades must shake off the chains of heterosexuality. Against a backdrop of walls adorned with pinups of Che Guevara and Ulrike Meinhof, she orders them to have sex with one another as proof of their commitment to the struggle, and soon all the rebels become willing combatants on the battleground of the bedroom. Pulsing with slogans for the homosexual intifada -- THE REVOLUTION IS MY BOYFRIEND, MADONNA IS COUNTERREVOLUTIONARY, HETEROSEXUALITY IS THE OPIATE OF THE MASSES -- and drawing liberally on the tropes of both porn and propaganda, The Raspberry Reich is a smart and steamy bit of reeducation. 90 minutes.

Super8andhalfx633_0Super 8 1/2, 1994, Canada. With Bruce LaBruce, Stacy Friedrich, Mikey Mike, Chris Teen, Vaginal Creme Davis, and Richard Kern. LaBruce's quasi-autobiographical sophomore effort tells the story of "Bruce," a porn auteur with avant-garde ambitions. Though he'd made a name for himself with movies like Pay Him as He Lays and My Hustler, Myself, Bruce finds his star fading and his career on the wane; like Marcello Mastroianni in Federico Fellini's 81/2, he's a frustrated director, and like Elizabeth Taylor in Butterfield 8, his passions are the stuff of his undoing. Offering Bruce his last chance at fame is Googie, an up-and-coming art-film darling with designs to exploit his ailing reputation as a way to cement her own. LaBruce delivers this decline-and-fall saga with insouciant wit, all while aggressively lifting elements from film history ("There's no copyright on a good line," Bruce muses). Acutely self-aware and replete with hard-core action, this may be the most meta-cinematic blue movie ever made. 100 minutes.

Skinflickx633_0_0Skin Flick,1999, Great Britain. Directed by Bruce LaBruce. Cinematography by James Carman. With Steve Masters, Eden Miller, Tom International, and Ralph Steel. Produced for the adult film studio Cazzo Film, Skin Flick is simultaneously a work of pornography and a reworking of the genre that is disturbing and titillating in equal measure. The movie revolves around a gang of neo-Nazi London skinheads who lead a life of petty theft, queer bashing, and general thuggery -- when not having passionate sex with one another. (The hypocrisy of the situation is lost on them.) Bored and broke, the crew decides to terrorize an interracial gay couple while they're at home in their bourgeois flat, and the scenes that follow are not soon forgotten. "LaBruce has never been squeamish when it comes to leveling criticism at queer fetishism of race, class, and control," the artist Scott Treleaven once wrote. "So is it repugnant? Satirical? If it weren't for LaBruce's trademark slapstick scenes, caustic commentary, and over-the-top porno flick stylings, it could even be dangerous." 67 minutes.

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Christopher Harrity

Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.
Christopher Harrity is the Manager of Online Production for Here Media, parent company to The Advocate and Out. He enjoys assembling online features on artists and photographers, and you can often find him poring over the mouldering archives of the magazines.