Toronto-based Bruce LaBruce is part of a dying breed of renegade gay men and lesbians who insist on pushing the envelope. Except unlike the proverbial torch-carrying dyke on her bike, LaBruce is humble, mild-mannered, and prefers to thought-provoke rather than inflame -“ although it must be said through much of his career he’s actually done more of the latter.

A fringe dweller, LaBruce has always inhabited culture’s margins, from his early days as a punk to one of the founding members of the queercore movement -“ an offshoot of the punk scene which LaBruce and his cohorts created when they deemed punk to be too anodyne for their liking.

LaBruce first came to widespread public attention in 1990 for his grainy art-school film No Skin Off My Ass. It was followed in 1994 by the Warhol-esque Super 8 1/2, and both titles were successful, if nothing else, in introducing to the world LaBruce’s offbeat style and his brand of dry, campy humour. Zero stars, said one critic of Super 8 1/2. While the title refers to Fellini’s ultimate treasure, it’s ironic that Super 8 1/2 is the ultimate trash.

While queercore has settled, LaBruce himself has lost none of his vigour. A prodigious artist and commentator , in the last three years he has managed to balance a Muslim boyfriend and his regular column Feelings for the Toronto Eye (www.eye.net), in between the gay cult film Hustler White, Skin Flick, and photographic assignments for the US skin mag, Honcho.

Sasha Naod You’ve hardly appeared to stop in your career -“ where does all this energy come from?

Bruce LaBruce Well, I had to stop for a while there. I travelled with Skin Flick for a year and a half, and went back to Toronto and basically collapsed. I felt like I’d been travelling for so long, like I didn’t have a life any more. So I started getting domestic and cooking, stuff like that. I also had this Muslim boyfriend for a year and a half, so that kept me busy.

SN Your new film sounds interesting, to say the least -¦

BL Yeah. It’s another low budget porno, with a terrorist theme. I’ve been meaning to do it for a while -“ actually from before all the 9/11 stuff. So it turns out to be quite current.

It’s about a group of young people who are inspired by a radical group called Beta Meinhoff.

Heavy stuff but there’s also a comedy element to it. These guys are in over their heads, and slightly inept. They’re led by a woman, who is the balls of the organisation. She believes there will be no revolution without homosexuality, so she makes her boyfriend, like, fuck other guys to further the cause.

SN Any cameos this time around?

BL I may have to.

SN I like how you say that.

BL Yeah! Well, we’re not sure yet. We might even include -“ this film’s quite experimental in nature, so maybe.

SN Gay sex, and more specifically, porn, seems to be a preoccupation of your films. Why?

BL It started out during my time as a punk -“ sex was a really political or ideological manoeuvre. Then punk and its gay scene got very assimilationist and bourgeois. My group was more rebellious, so we just started making these Super8 movies, just to show those punks. When it came to sex, the punks were quite conventional. It was about shedding that.

SN Gay men in general seem to have an insatiable appetite for porn -“ more than our straight counterparts. Pleasures aside, why do you think porn occupies such a central role in the gay consciousness?
BL A lot of gay men live their lives like they’re porn stars. That’s part of the appeal of being gay. There are so many restrictions in the mainstream, but gay guys get to experiment a lot more, to play with ideas. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some kind of biological reason to it. Like the size of the hypothalamus or the dick or something like that.

SN Why do you think your films provoke so much?
BL Well, I do tackle these hot button issues, like fascism and neo-Nazism -“ especially as it pertains to the gay sensibility. And now with this current film -“ I swore that after Skin Flick I wouldn’t do this again. It’s probably going to be worse with this one.

SN I know you’ve been quite critical of a lot of gay culture in the past -“ circuit parties and the like. What are your thoughts on gay culture and community today?
BL I’m still pretty much against the idea of mainstreaming homosexual culture. It just seems that we’re fighting for the right to be as bland and boring as everyone else. We’re trying to divest ourselves of our most radical fringes so we can be accepted by the mainstream. Gay culture used to be this umbrella that embraced a lot of different elements -“ criminals and assorted misfits. That seems to have been lost. It’s become a lifestyle and a private club that you have to have a certain body or mentality to join.

SN We’ve seen a lot of the big cultural events hit trouble -“ London Pride, our own Mardi Gras. Is gay culture dead or dying?
BL Only inasmuch as it gets assimilated. I think it’s been deluded and dumbed down. A lot of gay press is so anti-intellectual. I just went to an event in Olympic, Washington -“ it was a homo au go-go youth event. They were talking about gender issues like gender dysphoria. I was so amazed with what’s going on with war in Iran and terrorism, that there was no protest or debate about these issues outside this insular world of sexual politics. The left has folded.

SN Where would you like to see the gay community go?
BL I’d like to see us re-politicised -“ back to the vanguard of culture; dictating style. That was the advantage of being so invisible. There we were in fashion and film. All these people who worked in Hollywood. These people were covert and therefore much more powerful. Now it’s just been compartmentalised and turned into another genre.

SN When are we going to see you in Australia?
BL When I’m invited! I’d love to come.

 

Raspberry Reich wrapped last November and is currently in post-production. Bruce LaBruce hopes for a release date around March 2003, so keep an eye on local film festival schedules.

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