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Bruce LaBruce Looks Back On His Career Ahead of This Month’s MoMA Retrospective

Bruce LaBruce Looks Back On His Career Ahead of This Month's MoMA Retrospective

One thing about having a retrospective, it makes you consider where you
are and how you got there, wherever and however that may be. It was always my
plan to be a writer and film critic, but I was also interested in dance, so I
majored in Film and minored in Dance at York University in Toronto. I was
encouraged to continue in film production after two years, but I couldn’t
afford it, and I was a bit technophobic, so I didn’t think I’d be able to be a
filmmaker anyway. I ended up getting my Master’s degree in Film Theory and
Social and Political Thought, mentored by the late great gay film critic Robin
Wood, who’s first and most ardent rule was always “question authority.”

As a post-grad student I started making short, experimental super-8
movies in the punk and alternative art scenes in downtown Toronto, which
eventually led to making my first feature length movie, “No Skin Off My Ass,” featuring outsider characters that have the same romantic impulses and desires
as everyone else. “No Skin Off My Ass” was a no-budget film, shot on Super-8 film
and blown up to 16mm, that happened to coincide with what was considered the
first wave of gay cinema, known as New Queer Cinema, and also with the
burgeoning queer film festival circuit. My film is a kind of underground punk
remake of Robert Altman’s film “That Cold Day in the Park” starring Sandy Dennis,
one of my favourite actors. But my interpretation is almost like an O. Henry
short story – it’s about a hairdresser who falls in love with a neo-Nazi
skinhead and thereby loses his interest in hair! It’s that kind of irony that
runs through all my work. But ultimately, it’s also a story about redemption,
because the sister of the skinhead joins forces with the hairdresser to reform
the misguided skinhead and make him into a loving human being. How romantic can
you get?

A retrospective also makes you appreciate the people you’ve worked with.
My most luminous muse, Susanne Sachsse, who’s starred in three of my films and
four of my theatrical productions, is an artist I’ve learned so much from and
who has challenged me to do thinks out of my comfort zone (if I’ve ever had a
comfort zone). She was fearless in doing sexually explicit scenes in my film “The Raspberry Reich,” even though as an established actor in Germany she got a
lot of flack for it. She gave me the opportunity to direct theatre for the
first time, and she even got me to direct my first “opera” of sorts, Arnold
Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire,” which was staged at the legendary Hebbel am Ufer
theatre in Berlin, and which I then adapted into an experimental film in which
she stars. She’s also a great beauty.

As I mentioned, I never thought I could be a filmmaker. I thought it was
too complicated, too technical, and too expensive. But I’ve learned that you
can figure out a lot of things if you have the desire and drive to do it. I’ve
even made quite a few guerilla-style films, which is never something I thought
I’d be good at. You have to work really fast, be fearless, elude the
authorities, even break the law, and not worry about how ridiculous or
unprofessional you look, as long as you get it in the can. The cinematographer
James Carman, who shot five of my films, from “Hustler White” to “L.A. Zombie,” taught me a lot about that credo. My personal motto on these kinds of projects:
whatever it takes. You have to swallow your pride, ask for too many favours,
and push your cast and crew to the breaking point. I never thought I had it in
me, but I did. My message is probably something about being true to yourself,
making strong personal statements, using your flaws as advantages, and finding
the empowerment in your outsiderness. And don’t be afraid to be politically
incorrect, but not stupidly so.

don’t mind being considered a queer filmmaker, or a pornographer, or a
provocateur. But please don’t call me an aging enfant terrible, which is the
current trend. Challenging the status quo shouldn’t be age-specific. I always
express solidarity with pornographers and porno stars, which may be the last
gay radicals. But I’ve always tried to consider myself a filmmaker first, and
to develop an aesthetic and personal style, which is probably why so may of my
films, even though they have radically queer and/or pornographic content, have
played so heavily on the international film circuit. Three of my films
premiered at Sundance, and “Gerontophilia” opened the Venice Days section of the
Venice Film Festival. “L.A. Zombie,” a hardcore gorn film, debuted in competition
at the Locarno Film Festival. It’s important for me not only to preach to the
perverted, but also to reach wider and more diverse audiences.

What can you expect from my MoMA retrospective? My latest feature, “Gerontophilia,” opens the affair on April 23rd at 7pm. (It opens at
the Village East Cinema in New York on May 1st.) There are new HD
masters, taken from the original negatives, of my first three feature films, “No
Skin Off My Ass,” “Super 8 ½,” and “Hustler White.” There will be t-shirts and
rings. A brand new Blu-ray of “Hustler White” comes out on April 14th
from Strand Releasing
, which will be available at the MoMA store. A 35mm print
of my gay zombie film “Otto; or, Up with Dead People” will be shown, and my
latest film, “Pierrot Lunaire,” will also be featured. My long-time producer, Jurgen Bruning, without whom none of this would be possible, will be in attendance, as well as my homosexual husband, and other surprise guests. So be there or be square.

For more information on Bruce LaBruce’s MoMA retrospective, click here, and watch the trailer for “Hustler White” below:



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