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September 23, 2011

Evenings Out

Bruce LaBruce’s latest transgression: Reanimation sex

Canadian filmmaker Bruce LaBruce has been called many things, from the enfant terrible of queer cinema to a pornographer.

Really, at the heart of it, they’re all true. He will commit seemingly anything to film, and the most frightening part is the fact that it actually means something, the mirror it holds up to society is, in some way, valid.

He started in the punk rock ’zine world, putting out his own little queer rock and roll magazine, before segueing into filmmaking and rising to greater prominence with the seminal No Skin Off My Ass, in which he starred as a young man in love with an ostensibly heterosexual skinhead.

Since then, he has put out a handful of movies, each more transgressive than the last. Hustler White had stump sex, while Raspberry Reich exemplified the idea of gay sex as a revolutionary action. He has folded pornography in with diegetic filmmaking in a way that no other filmmaker truly has, and Jon Cameron Mitchell’s Short Bus owes at least one of its wheels to LaBruce.

Now, he’s back with another assault on bourgeois sensibilities in the form of L.A. Zombie, starring porn sensation (and probably one of the hottest men in the world) Francois Sagat as the eponymous not-quite-normal lead.

Another director might play coy about the film--what do you mean, it seems like Sagat might just be a wee bit nuts? LaBruce, however, is never coy.

“The Sagat character, the alien zombie, can be interpreted as a homeless, schizophrenic person who has the delusion or hallucination that he’s a zombie. Therefore, I changed the color and style of the make-up throughout to reinforce this split identification,” he noted. “Sometimes he is only half made up, or the parts of the body that are painted shift.”

“His split identity becomes magnified as the movie progresses, which is when his most grotesque identity emerges, signifying the extreme nature of his mental disturbance,” LaBruce continued.

By the way, the main character can apparently raise the dead by fornicating with their wounds. He does it a few times throughout the film, first with the young man who picks him up hitchhiking but flies through the windshield when his SUV crashes, then later with an assortment of other hunks.

Despite the mechanism involved in raising the dead, Sagat’s world-famous penis is seen only briefly.

“Actually, there is a hardcore version of the film called L.A. Zombie Hardcore that features Francois Sagat’s own penis quite prominently,” LaBruce stated. “L.A. Zombie is a different experience because in the theatrical version you only see his fake, alien penis.”

“I was intrigued by the idea of making a kind of ‘fake porn’ with a prosthetic penis,” he explained. “It makes the viewer self-conscious of the act of watching porn and consider the way it is conventionally depicted and consumed. The porn I make always uses distanciation devices to make the viewer aware of the mechanics of watching porn.”

“There’s always a certain ambivalence,” he concludes.

And that prosthetic penis certainly takes one out of the sexual moment, even if you were able to overlook the availability of orifices.

Interestingly, it seems to be LaBruce’s second film in a row to reference Flesh for Frankenstein, also known as Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. In the earlier film, Dr. Frankenstein tells his assistant, “To know death, Otto, you have to fuck life in the gall bladder.” He then proceeds to engage in simulated sex with a wound in the “bride of Frankenstein” character’s side.

The title of LaBruce’s last film, Otto: or, Up with Dead People, was a reference to the assistant, and both Otto and L.A. Zombie feature wounds used sexually.

While he started off with a grungy-if-realistic feel to his films, they have become steadily more bizarre over the years, with the Baader-Meinhof satire in Raspberry Reich, the teenaged German zombie in Otto, and now, this. Whatever this is.

“You may have noticed that the world we live in is becoming increasingly bizarre,” LaBruce mused. “Both my zombie films can be interpreted as films about mental illness, but it’s only a mental illness that reflects a sick society.”

Despite that, there might be some taboos left for him to break. When asked what was left, he replied questioningly.

“Robot sex? Unicorn-holing?”

He’s already at work on his next film, called Gerontophilia, a romantic comedy about an 18-year-old boy in love with an 80-year-old man. One supposes it will be a sort of Harold and Maude for the apocalyptic generation.

L.A. Zombie is now available on DVD from Strand Releasing. More information can be found at the film’s Facebook page,




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