---Fred Camper, Critic's Choice Chicago READER, November 11, 1994
Bruce LaBruce is a brat, and he likes to show off his butt. But with his Andy Warhol haircut and his John Lennon eyeglasses, LaBruce seems less fey in person than he does in his campy, trashy films.
"I do queen it up in the films, but I don't try to straighten up in person," says the force behind the underground flick No Skin Off My Ass, who has answered his Toronto door wearing leather vest, pants, and biker boots. "I don't have enough room in my closet to go back in."
LaBruce bares it all in his latest, Super 8 1/2, which starts off with a blowjob, and climaxes (as it were) with a nude hitchhike down a country road followed by a sex romp in the great outdoors. It's a pseudo-docu-porno film about LaBruce's life and career, including a previously untold tale about his brief stint as a butt-double in a blue movie and "restored" footage of such earlier work as Ride Queer, Ride and Submit to My Finger.
"I'm caught in an odd category between porno and alternative art film, and I hate the Queer Cinema label," says the filmmaker. "My budget is about $50,000, which would be a high-level porno movie, but I don't want to just get you off."
The Village Voice called LaBruce a director "careering with a Jayne Mansfield-ian blatancy." An Ontario-raised film school dropout, LaBruce met Berlin producer Jurgen Bruning during a trip to San Francisco. Bruning financed an idea LaBruce had for a Super 8 film about a hairdresser who seduces a skinhead, and No Skin Off My Ass became a cult hit. Now, LaBruce writes for Toronto's alternative rags and is working on two new films.
"This latest movie has many true elements of my life in it," LaBruce says. "That's my punk boyfriend on the bed next to me, and the stories are true, with some slight exaggeration." Super 8 1/2 explores a number of LaBruce's fetishes (toe-sucking, shaving, seducing hot straight Latino men); it's been screened already in Germany and was, believe it or not, shown on television in the Netherlands and England.
The film is shot in 16mm, which begs the question of what the eight-and-a-half is all about. LaBruce claims it has to do with inches and certain parts of his anatomy - but it's obvious, watching the film, that he's prone to exaggeration in that department, too.
For a radical Gay filmmaker, LaBruce includes a lot of women in his movies. "I've always loved women," the director says, "and a lot of Gay guys ask why I do put them in the videos. I say fast-forward through it if you throw up seeing female genitalia."
As that observation mught indicate, LaBruce has never been known for his political correctness. "I think the Gay movement has gotten lost in conformity, and that's not fun anymore," he says. "Anything you say against queer culture is a no-no, and I say that's bullshit."
Despite his occasional punk boyfriend, LaBruce is a confirmed bachelor. He shares his home with a pit bull named Cookie, and he believes he's Judy Garland reincarnated ("I was born on the day she died").
LaBruce's next projects are a non-explicit feature called Homocidal about a romantic serial killer, and Hustler White, which will be yet another "dirty little movie". Those will be a while in the making, though. For now, audiences will have to muse and be amused, and decide for themselves what's true and what isn't in Super 8 1/2.
"Here's a hint," LaBruce says, arching an eyebrow. "The butt-double story is true."
The Washington Blade, September 30,
Filmed in the grittiest of sepia tones, queercore writer-director Bruce LaBruce's Super 8 1/2 presents a demimonde of has-been porn stars and directors - literal bottom feeders - fighting over crumbs of faux stardom and money that is so well-imagined and daring that it begins to imagine an actual demimonde reined in only by the camera's frame.
Mixing homage and parody, cinema verite and mockumentary, this unruly and truly risky film sketches in the details of the career of a porn star-director identified only as "Bruce." He's the subject of a documentary by Googie, a lesbian art-porn filmmaker. This deconstructionist's wet dream switches mercilessly back and forth between Googie's interviews with Bruce, played by the director as a Warhol look- and act-alike, screen tests featuring the Friday sisters (the stars of "Submit to My Finger", the flick Googie intends to finance with proceeds from the documentary about Bruce) and the bizarre, poorly made blue oeuvre of both directors.
Multiple images of Warhol dominate. LaBruce as Bruce sits nonchalantly smoking a cigarette beneath a Warhol self-portrait, flinging barbs at the offscreen Googie while his naked hustler breadwinner, Pierce, writhes under the clear plastic sheets behind him. "I know how exhausting exploiting people can be," he tells the camera. The exploitation extends in every possible direction: Googie to Bruce, Bruce to Pierce, Labruce to Warhol, LaBruce to himself.
Not content to simply comment on the exploitive nature of film and celebrity, Super 8 1/2 contains its own ironic critique. Googie, watching and discussing Bruce's film My Hustler, Myself, states "He was actually attempting to break down the traditional subject-camera relationship," while LaBruce as Bruce gives a blowjob offscreen. "He was an existentialist trapped in a porno star's body," Googie continues. "He was a maverick." Remember the old joke: Why does Benji the Dog lick his balls? Because he can.
Offensively funny, edgy, and sometimes even erotic in spite of itself, Super 8 1/2 out-Warhols Andy and company by demoralizing LaBruce as well as his supporting cast, from Vaginal Cream Davis to Scott Thompson's Buddy Cole character. Each performance has its own strange perfection, nailing that border between good acting and bad performing.
So appropriative he's innovative, LaBruce as Bruce answers the
quintessential postmodern dilemma of originality by reasoning, "The
critics would say it's...a tribute, and update, a remake. Actually, I
stole it. Why? Because I'm busy."
---James Hannaham, The Village Voice, March 7, 1995