Skin Flicks: The Films of Bruce LaBruce
Canada’s queercore treasure joins us for multiple screenings during this retrospective of his inimitably steamy, seamy, scandalous and subversive oeuvre.
Cinephile, provocateur, self-proclaimed "reluctant pornographer" and all-round smarty-pants "homo auteur," Canada's queercore treasure Bruce LaBruce has courted controversy and received acclaim for his brilliant fusions of art-house sensibilities, political protest, snarky satire and hardcore pornography, all while flipping the finger (and any other member that might rise to the occasion) to the mainstreaming of gay culture. Raised on a small farm in rural Canada (where he was labelled "the artistic one" by his supportive family), LaBruce moved to Toronto to attend York University in the 1980s, but soon became disillusioned with academia and began producing homocore fanzines (the now infamous J.D.s) and making experimental Super 8 films. While interested in certain aspects of the old-school gay movement, LaBruce and his fellow fanzine creators were far more drawn to punk, both aesthetically and politically. LaBruce credits celebrated film critic Robin Wood (his film professor at York) and his hardcore feminist punk comrades for politicizing him and inspiring him to live a punk-rock philosophy in his life as well as his art.
LaBruce made his first feature, the erotic punk fable No Skin Off My Ass (inspired by Robert Altman's That Cold Day in the Park), in 1991. Shortly thereafter, film scholar B. Ruby Rich (writing in Sight & Sound) coined the term "New Queer Cinema" to describe the recent features by such gay indie filmmakers as Gus Van Sant, Gregg Araki, and Todd Haynes. But while LaBruce was frequently identified with this cohort, his taste for queer gore porn and homo camp placed him definitively on the fringe of this fringe. As the New Queer Cinema increasingly began to peddle its wares to mainstream audiences, LaBruce continued to preach to the queer choir with Hustler White (a Sunset Boulevard homage exposing the cruel underbelly of the hustling life in Los Angeles) and Skin Flick, a daring exploration of taboo imagery involving gay porn, violent crime and neo-Nazi skinheads. LaBruce would push his sexual and political provocations even further with The Raspberry Reich, a criticism of left-wing "terrorist chic" wherein self-appointed heirs of the Baader-Meinhof Gang launch a "homosexual intifada" against heterosexual normality.
The gay zombie riffs Otto; or, Up with Dead People and L.A. Zombie saw LaBruce's work evolving both in terms of exhibition — moving away from punk clubs and alternative art spaces to international film festivals and art institutions — and, somewhat, in sensibility. While LaBruce has always used gay porn as a political weapon, pushing homosexuality and Queerty into the faces of both the intolerant and the stodgily status quo, his transgressiveness has always been accompanied by a compassionate, even romantic spirit. That sensitivity is most evident in his new film Gerontophilia, his most accessible (and biggest-budgeted) effort to date, a romantic comedy for the "pomo homo" in which a teenager must come to terms with his desire to take care of the elderly — sexually. Now twenty-five years into his career, with eight features and numerous short films, art installations, theatrical works, photographic portraits, and brilliant essays and blog posts under his belt, LaBruce has never been more relevant or necessary. Now go take that hustler nap and let's get unconscious.
— Andrew Murphy