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Bruce LaBruce’s Punk-Porno Provocations

Bruce LaBruce

Images Courtesy of Bruce LaBruce

Now with a Museum of Modern Art retrospective (April 23-May 2), it’s time for a new generation to reconsider the “reluctant pornographer” who has struggled to finance his queer sensibility — no matter the cost. "The retrospective feels, 'Fantastic' — that's a Barbra Streisand quote from Funny Lady (I like how she manages to put about five syllables in the word "fantastic," says LaBruce. "For a filmmaker such as myself, who's been making sexually explicit queer films since the eighties, and who also sometimes considers himself an artist who works in pornography, I think it's significant to have a retrospective at such a high-profile institution. Me and Bjork having retrospectives there this year. Not too shabby!"

We asked LaBruce to look back on the highs and lows over the decades. “It's never a good idea to try to assess the impact that your own work has had, but within the bounds of modesty I think at the very least my films have inspired some people, queer or otherwise, both politically and personally, to challenge tired orthodoxies and the status quo," he says. "So I'm not that surprised, especially inasmuch as half the battle is just sticking around! To the gay community, I can only quote Genet from The Maids: 'I am your bad smell!' ”

Here, he shares a few of his creative struggles.

On heartbreaks and break downs:
“When I made my second feature, Super 8 1/2, I was at a pretty rotten place in my life. My boyfriend at the time (and Super 8 1/2 actor) Klaus Von Brucker — who had starred in my first feature, No Skin Off My Ass — left me for another man. Plus, I had no idea how to make a 16mm film, so it took me two years to complete the film, through a near nervous breakdown, with mixed results, but it was also a very creative period for me, and the important thing is that I finished the picture! Always finish the picture!”

Hustler White

On what Madonna said: 

“When Tony Ward agreed to star in Hustler White, he asked his ex-girlfriend, Madonna, to help back the film financially. She declined, and called me a 'twerp,' according to Ward. I always took that as a compliment and wore it as a badge of honor. I see it as my duty to annoy, to confound, to infuriate, and to provoke, because somebody has to.”

Skin Flick

Why skinhead porn isn't always the best career movie:

I used to joke that an alternative title to my film Skin Flick (hardcore porn title: Skin Gang) could have been "Career Suicide." Following up Hustler White with a porn film about neo-Nazi skinheads was not what you might call the smoothest of career moves.

On lawsuits and zombies: 

“Another low would be when my producer, Jürgen Brüning, and I were sued for a million dollars by the estate of Alberto Korda, the photographer of the iconic Che Guevera photo, for copyright infringement and offensive use of the image in The Raspberry Reich. It took us a while to recover from the financial blow (the fine was vastly reduced, but we had to pay court costs), but somehow the film has still managed to become a cult favorite and we recovered and made Otto together.”

 

gerontophilia

On having a budget: 
“It was my first film with a budget north of a million dollars and without sexually explicit content. I wanted to shock by not being shocking — although some basic people still squirmed at the idea of octogenarian sex.”

 

The MoMA film retrospective continues through May 2. Visit the website for a complete calendar of screenings.

Tags: Movies

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