CELEBRATING THE OPPOSITION
Luis Buñuel said once: “I don’t really know why, but I’ve always thought that sex had a certain similarity with death, a secret but constant relation”. The French word for the moment after orgasm, for example, is “petit-mort” or little death. Looking at your production, your films and photography and their unique style… maybe the same reference could also be made.
Freud actually posited an opposition between Thanatos, the death drive, and the sex drive. But there are many little deaths in life. After one has sex, or after one depletes one’s serotonin after taking certain drugs, one feels a little death. For some reason, I’ve had a graveyard scene in almost every film I’ve ever made, and quite often I’ve shot sex scenes in graveyards. Maybe it’s a way of keeping death away, or maybe it’s a comment on the inevitability of death. Or maybe it’s just a quiet, remote place outdoors where none of the living can see what you’re up to!
In the time before the Internet… how did the young Bruce, raised in a farm, get to know concepts such as queercore existed and how did he end up publishing the cult fanzine J.D? We’ve been raised in a little town in the mountains, that’s why it feels very interesting.
Actually, young Bruce didn’t know about such concepts as queercore because young Bruce actually was one of the people who created queercore! I moved from the farm to go to University, and I soon fell in with some punk dykes with whom I started making fanzines and experimental movies. We were bored with gay culture, but discovered the hardcore punk in the mid-eighties was somewhat homophobic, so we forged our own queer punk movement.
Your last film, Gerontophilia, speaks about a sort of taboo concept in this society of perfect bodies and eternal youth; sex and sexual attraction from and towards the elderly. It’s time to accept it is a reality, but why, out of all the themes you could’ve chosen, did you go for this one?
I wanted to make a somewhat more mainstream film, but I still wanted to remain true to the kinds of subjects that interest me – fetish, taboo, characters who go against the grain on normal society. I’d met quite a few fellows in my life who told me they lost their virginity to much older men. I’d also met a lot of people with very specific fetishes, including gerontophiles. It just seemed like a good metaphor for anyone who has a sexual predilection that is disapproved of by society. I had also read that old people in nursing homes often continue to be very sexual, and sometimes they are overmedicated to control their behaviour. Sometimes it seems like they are even almost turned into zombies, so in a way I made yet another zombie film!
World population’s life expectancy is getting higher and, for example, 65 year old people are no longer considered as “old”. I do believe “Gerontophilia” is talking about something it will, in some decades, be a common topic. How does it feel to be polemic or classified as polemic all the time, even if you’re not being so?
For whatever reason, I am a natural born contrarian and polemicist. My philosophy of homosexuality is about celebrating difference, which makes me look at the world in terms of opposition. I always make films about characters who are marginalized or disenfranchises – outsiders, outcasts, rebels, or revolutionaries. I’m not interested in preserving the status quo, and I always question authority.
What attracted you out of the idea of making a more “mainstream” film?
I just felt as if I’d already explored pretty thoroughly the pornographic and the underground. If I continued to make only pornographic films, I would never reach a wider audience, and I would risk the problem of always preaching to the same choir. I also wanted to challenge myself by making a movie with a bigger budget, with a union crew, and done in a more industry style. Most of the films I’ve made have been guerrilla style, down and dirty, without permits, always evading the authorities. I thought it was time to try a completely different method.
Let’s talk about guilty pleasures; taking into account the romantic halo you sometimes talk about, mixed with the comedy component of your production… is there any cheesy made-in-Hollywood romantic comedy you can’t help watching from time to time?
Of course! I’m a sucker for classic Hollywood movies. I love The Way We Were with Streisand and Redford. But I also love Sydney Pollack’s other stranger romantic movie Three Days of the Condor with Redford and Faye Dunaway. It’s a kind of twisted, paranoid spy thriller with an unlikely romantic, almost S&M relationship between the two leads!
Could we believe that apart from the blood, sex and L.A Zombie master there is a Bruce that likes to cuddle and feels like hiding behind a blanket on a Sunday afternoon? Does that person exist?
I think my movies demonstrate that I have a highly developed romantic side. My favourite pastime is lying in bed watching old Hollywood movies on YouTube. My husband, who is Cuban, is also quite a romantic. When I’m in Toronto we are pretty domestic. He cooks dinner every night and I do the dishes!
I guess you can find as many sexual preferences as people in this planet. What is weird and what is not anymore changes with time, but what is it that makes perversions evolve?
One man’s perversion is another man’s missionary position! Or woman’s! Every once and a while an author like Jaqueline Susann or E. L. James comes along and popularizes something that was previously considered kinky and alternative and underground. They are merely awakening the kinky impulses we’ve all been forced to repress!
You’ve been active in a very wide field of creative work for over 20 years. I suppose you’ve seen a lot and you’ve experienced a lot. Looking back now… is there much that can shock you left to see?
Always. I have never developed a jaundiced eye or a particularly thick skin. As an artist, you have always to remain sensitive. I am still the kind of person who has to watch horror movies through my fingers!
Your exhibition at the Fresh Gallery in Madrid was as controversial as adored; full of religious iconography, we could see pictures of nuns, priests and crosses. If religion didn’t exist, would there be any space for the concepts of sin and perversion?
Yes, we have organized religion to thank for all our sins and perversions. It’s the people who make the rules of appropriate conduct who create the taboos and who dare us to transgress. Religion is the ultimate fetish generator, and often the ultimate fetish itself!
Your work is mainly centred in the male figures or the masculine world. What do women symbolize for you?
Actually, I often have very strong, feminist female characters in many of my films. They are often the intellectuals, the revolutionaries, or the artists who make sense of the world. Because I’m a homosexual, I tend to fetish male sexuality, so for me the female characters are often valued more for their brains and artistic talent. However, I also do appreciate female beauty, and quite often celebrate it in my films and photographs. This, of course, includes trans-women.
What’s now bubbling inside Bruce’s brain, what’s your next project?
Oh, it’s a secret. I do have a smaller project going called Ulrike’s Brain, which is a kind of sequel to my move The Raspberry Reich, about a group of feminist revolutionaries. I’m developing another larger project as well, but it’s very hush-hush.
We ask this question to everyone interviewed at La Monda. We give you the beginning of the sentence and you have to complete it.
“Artistic expression as a way of defending…”
my revoluionary ideals!”
Interview: Ane Guerra
Web: Bruce Labruce