Monday, March 9, 2015

DVD Review: The Advocate for Fagdom

Text © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

The Advocate for Fagdom
Directed by Angelique Bosio
Le Chat Qui Fume
91 minutes, 2011

Usually it’s the second wave that is more adamant, and more militant that what preceded. For punk, the British scene blasted through the American predecessor; in feminism, the second wave presented the angry side with the likes of Andrea Dworkin as its poster child. For transgressive media, the roots of this documentary had its nascent rising with filmmakers Richard Kern and John Waters, and the No Wave movement of Teenage Jesus and the Jerks and the Contortions.

From the foundation of transgression came Bruce LaBruce, blasting out of the furnace of a place that started building by breaking through fear, and into the face of society in a way no one could have predicted. In many ways, one of the focal points that made LaBruce such a powerful force was his consolidation of many difference scenes and genres, and laser focusing them out through a queer prism.

Hailing from Ontario, LaBruce started making small films with gay themes that were grainy 8mm, which somehow made enough of an impact that Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain (from whose quote the title of this film was taken) was known to have said that LaBruce was his favorite filmmaker. LaBruce also produced a Queercore (aka Homocore) fanzine in the ‘80s that promoted a scene that didn’t exist, with enough energy that an outburst of the style arose from it. A hardcore fan (or, as is commented here, a fan of hardcore boys), he wanted to acknowledge a level of queerness that was in the music that was not being noted because of the scene’s violently homophobic element. At this point, I believe it would have been good to interview members of the Pansy Division , or MDC (Millions of Dead Cops, or Multi-Death Corporation), who could tell stories about being on the road with some of those gay-bashing bands (e.g., Bad Brains).

However, it is his cinema of transgression that has made Bruce LaBruce not just famous, but infamous. They look a bit like real-life aspects of ‘60s Warhol mixed with the bizzaro unexpectedness of John Waters. Using both script and improvisation, LaBruce shows a world of hustlers, S&M/B&D, and a copious amounts of graphic M2M sex; it should be noted here that he also shocks his regular audience by having W2W, on which some of the audience walked out). And, please note, that this documentary has some of these clips included in this doc, so if you are a right wing religious nut, you may not want to watch this or it may recruit you to making the choice to go to the other side. Yes, that’s sarcasm.

Okay, back to the serious review. As someone points out in the doc, this isn’t just anti- to be different: having studied deconstructionism via Foucault and Derrida, he uses it to express his agenda, in what seems like crude attempts, but is actually quite astute. And as Waters says in one of the interviews, LaBruce also having fun (Waters tells quite the amusing and telling anecdote about when he stayed at Waters’ house).

I believe it’s true, as is noted on the DVD, that when you make a hardcore gay porno film – especially if you star in it like LaBruce has done numerous times – it probably is harder to get funding to reach the level of Waters or especially Gus van Sant. Even Richard Kern, who directed a number of violent and (straight) experimental films is acknowledged as an auteur and somewhat respected on a cult level, probably will never reach the A-Line. That being said, there probably would be no Shortbus (2006) or arguably The Brown Bunny (2003) without people like Bruce LaBruce breaking the barriers on the micro-budget end. And I would like to point out that the directors of both those films, John Cameron Mitchell and Vincent Gallo, respectively, have not done much feature-length film directing since those releases over a decade ago. For LaBruce, however, his biggest budgeted film came after this documentary.

The third act here is an in-depth look at his insertion of – er – insertions, blow-jobs, and what makes this art with some pornographic images rather than being dismissed as porn. This is, to me, an important topic that deserves to be discussed, especially in today’s world of right wing religious fanatics around the world, and in the West, who are intent on going Biblical and - Koranical? - on all things gay, explicit or a quarter of an inch beyond the ken of their interpretation of “moral.”

But that is not what makes LaBruce so interesting to me. What I find fascinating is a two edged sword that he wields so sharply and intensely. On the one hand, he is bringing homosexuality to the forefront in a way none of the other directors have before, even with Waters’ touchstone being the amazing Divine (d. 1988), mixing transgression with usually leftist politics.

At the same time, he holds up the gay lifestyle to the queer population themselves, showing their own weaknesses by focusing on explicit lesbian sex in The Raspberry Reich (2004), or cultural and material consumerist mentality (borrowing Romero’s zombie = consumer from Dawn of the Dead [1979]) in Otto; or, Up With Dead People (2008). By wagging his finger at both sides, his statement becomes all the louder.

Angelique Bosio keeps a very balanced film going here. There are clips from many of LaBruce’s films, including the explicit scenes; we see the action from his public photographic art performances, and interviews with most of the writers and actors in this film to talk about both LaBruce what it means to them to be involved in a hotspot political movement. There are also a number of directors, including those mentioned beforehand, like Waters, Kern and van Sant, writers such as Bruce Benderson, and even performance artists, including Vaginal Davis. Susanne Sachsse also gives some pointed feminist notes as being one of the few females in the group.

The world is swinging ever further to the Right, and it’s good to have a strong voice pulling in the opposite direction in a way that is so extreme to make its point. This film is both exquisite and at times anguish to watch, which is to say, that it represents Bruce LaBruce and for what he stands. This should be in Gender, Queer and Film Studies departments/programs around the world.
Trailer HERE
Bonus video HERE

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